- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Metropolitan police continue to monitor critical infrastructure sites such as water-treatment facilities and bridges in the District, but Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday stopped requiring officers to work 12-hour shifts designed to increase police presence.
Last week, with war breaking out in Iraq, Chief Ramsey had asked officers in the 3,600-member department to extend their eight-hour shifts beginning Thursday, and had canceled one day off per week.
Margret Nedelkoff Kellems, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, said yesterday that the deployments were temporary while police evaluated the possibility of terror attacks and the threats posed by anti-war demonstrators.
"We weren't sure particularly with regard to protesters what kind of needs we would have," Mrs. Kellems said. "We are confident with the level of security that we are providing, along with other agencies and the private sector."
The D.C. police Joint Operations Command Center, with its network of 14 surveillance cameras, continues to operate, along with three temporary cameras used to monitor bridges over the Potomac River.
Members of the Specialized Operations Division and certain other specialized units remain on the extended, 12-hour shifts, but with two days off per week. Leave restrictions also remain in effect.
The D.C. area has been on a heightened alert since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security elevated the nation's terror-alert level to Orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack, on March 17.
The scaling back came on the same day President Bush called on state and local law-enforcement agencies to step up their efforts to secure critical sites in their jurisdictions.
"In this time of heightened security, we are expecting states and communities to take on greater responsibilities to protect critical infrastructure," Mr. Bush said, adding that he was seeking federal resources to assist local homeland security agencies.
About $2 billion of a $74 billion war package Mr. Bush plans to ask Congress for will go to grants to states for state and local anti-terrorism efforts.
Maryland State Police spokesman Lt. Bud Frank, said the action called for by the president has already been coordinated. "We've already been there," Lt. Frank said. "Those were areas we had identified as critical."
He said the Maryland State Police last week increased security around some public buildings, limiting points of entry to ensure that unauthorized people don't have access.
State police have also identified potential target areas, such as power facilities, water plants or landmarks. Officers in plainclothes or in uniform are guarding them. Public transportation and events with large crowds also are on watch.
The department, which is keeping some of its safety measures secret, is also encouraging residents to contact its tip line, at 800/492-TIPS, if they see suspicious activity in their areas, said Lt. Frank.
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Lynn Cofer said state police continue to maintain a presence at airports and around the Pentagon, as they have since October 2001. She said there is a plan in place to deploy officers to guard power plants and water-treatment facilities, although that hasn't happened yet.
She said police have not been deployed to bridges.
Meanwhile, random vehicle checks have been carried out at Baltimore-Washington International, Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports since the threat level was raised to Code Orange.
"Every vehicle that comes on airport property is subject to search," said Tom Sullivan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Mr. Sullivan said airport police officers pull over and thoroughly search passenger vehicles as well as cargo trucks that enter the airport area.
The Maryland Transportation Authority has searched about 25,000 vehicles for potentially dangerous cargo near the Port of Baltimore, BWI Airport and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge since the state elevated its threat level last week, said Cpl. Greg Prioleau, a spokesman for the transportation authority.
"The drivers have basically appreciated what we're doing out there," Cpl. Prioleau said. "They've been very cooperative."
The U.S. Coast Guard has increased cutter and air-boat patrols on the Chesapeake Bay and is keeping its small boat stations on alert. Coast Guard officials have also added more cutters than usual to patrol Baltimore Harbor, and air patrols have been increased on the Eastern Shore.
So far, neither Maryland, Virginia nor the District have called upon the National Guard to provide security at critical infrastructure sites, though Guard members say they are prepared if needed.
Ellen Qualls, a spokeswoman for Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, said a plan is in place to deploy guard members or units not called up for the war effort to preassigned locations in their region in the event of a terrorist attack or a credible threat of a terrorist attack.
Maj. Charles Kohler, spokesman for the 8,000-member Maryland National Guard, said guard members have been supplementing security at military bases in the state, but have not been directed to provide security. "It's certainly something we are capable of doing," Maj. Kohler said.
Amtrak has extended the work shifts of its police officers to 12 hours and told them to be more vigilant since the terror alert was heightened last week, said Cliff Black, a spokesman for the company. Ever since September 11, 2001, people buying tickets have been required to show a photo ID and sniffing dogs have roamed to ensure bags don't contain dangerous products.
Amtrak travelers at Union Station said yesterday they didn't really notice any extra police presence but that they felt safe traveling despite that.
Andre Morrison, who was visiting the Washington area from Pittsburgh, said he didn't see much of a difference between the security in the nation's capital and his hometown.
"It looks like the same as everywhere else," said Mr. Morrison, 24.

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