By David Madden

By David Madden

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The US Secret Service is denying suggestions made by sources in local law enforcement that thousands of people choosing to walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge during next month’s visit by Pope Francis will be subject to security screening.

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Sources had told several news organizations, including KYW Newsradio, that screening had been discussed in recent weeks and its use on the bridge was considered likely.

Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback, in an e-mail sent to local media Friday afternoon, dismissed the idea saying those walking on the bridge “will not see magnetometers waiting for them on the bridge, nor will they see Secret Service or City of Philadelphia “screening stations”.”

The agency suggests this is not the first time local sources have leaked information on security plans that turned out to be incorrect, and that such reports “paint a false and misleading picture in front of the public.”

There will, however, be what Hoback says “some type of law enforcement presence on the bridge to ensure those who wish to cross can do so in a safe and expeditious manner”.

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He also promises a list of prohibited items within the safety zone to be set up within Center City Philadelphia. But he won’t say when that list might be released.

Whatever efforts are taken, one local security expert suggests they’re a good thing.

“It’s not just about the security of the individual which is obviously important,” says Assistant Professor Louis Tuthill in the criminal justice department at Rutgers-Camden. “But it’s about the safety of all the people that are attending the event.”

Lous Tuthill. (Credit: Bob Larami)

Lous Tuthill. (Credit: Bob Larami)

And whatever plan is eventually released, Tuthill offers this piece of advice.

“In any situation like this, when you don’t know how many people you’re going to have, you’re going to have to maintain some level of flexibility” he says.

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We do know that three lanes on the bridge will be open to pedestrian traffic. The other four will be reserved for emergency vehicular traffic.