- The Washington Times - Monday, December 22, 2003

Police in the District have activated surveillance cameras, increased manpower around government buildings and dispatched bomb-sniffing dogs to rail stations in an effort to heighten security after the nation’s terror-alert level was raised from “elevated” to “high” on Sunday.

But despite the increased police activity, city officials say they have “not taken any extreme measures” to handle the additional responsibilities.

“We have not received any intelligence that there is any specific threat against the District or the metropolitan region,” said Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, the District’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice. “There’s nothing in this that puts us in a position to act on anything more than we normally would.”

Mrs. Kellems said the heightened terror alert came as little surprise to city officials, who were notified in a conference call conducted by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge on Sunday that the terror-alert level had been raised.

She said police have begun increased patrols around critical areas, such as water-treatment facilities, rail yards and bridges in the District, and emergency crews were instructed to make sure their personal protective gear was in working order.

Authorities also activated the Joint Operations Command Center, which is manned by the Metropolitan Police Department, the FBI, the Secret Service and other local police agencies. A network of 14 surveillance cameras around the District has also been turned on.

But police have not canceled leave for officers and have not lengthened work shifts. Mrs. Kellems said it would require “something more concrete” to take those steps.

In March, when the threat level was raised at the beginning of the military campaign in Iraq, D.C. police switched to 12-hour work shifts, restricted leave and canceled one day off per week for officers.

The additional measures lasted less than a week, as police evaluated the possibility of terror attacks and the threats posed by antiwar demonstrators.

Mrs. Kellems said it was herunderstanding the heightened alert would continue “through the holiday season and beyond.”

U.S. Capitol Police said officers will be more visible around the Capitol grounds, but there has been no need to cancel any days off or extend officers’ shifts.

“One thing that has been helpful is that Congress is out of session,” said Capitol Police spokeswoman Officer Jessica Gissubel.

Overhead signs along roadways urging motorists to report suspicious activity have been turned on, and security has been heightened around rail stations and airports.

Metro Transit Police officials said they have deployed additional police officers to rail stations and outfitted officers in orange vests for higher visibility. Special-response teams and explosive-detection dogs are conducting sweeps of Metrorail stations, and some officers are armed with semiautomatic weapons.

“Our customers are likely to see special-response teams of officers carrying additional weaponry with a canine accompanying them,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson. In addition, public-address announcements urge riders to report suspicious people, unusual activities and unattended packages.

Tom Sullivan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said additional security measures were put in place, though some will not be visible to the public. He said what people are likely to see are additional patrols through terminals by Airports Authority police and random vehicle searches that could delay travelers trying to catch their flights.

“All vehicles that come on to airport property will be subject to search,” he said.


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