Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Officials from local and federal police agencies yesterday reassured the public that they are not anticipating an elevated security threat for the District’s July Fourth festivities, despite recent attempted terrorist attacks in Britain.

However, the District regularly employs high security measures for the holiday, and many departments are collaborating to ensure safety, officials said.

“We do not have a specific heightened threat,” said Joseph Persichini Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI field office in Washington. “But we will be vigilant.”

The Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Capitol Police, Metro Transit Police, and the District’s Department of Transportation and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency will be collaborating, officials said.

Mr. Persichini said law-enforcement officials have partnered with commercial vendors to monitor suspicious purchases of items such as propane.

He asked the public to be on alert. If people see something suspicious, “It doesn’t hurt to call,” he said.

Park Police Chief Dwight E. Pettiford said the District has a “very good plan” for holiday security.

“Is it safe? Yes,” he said.

The Mall will be fenced off, as it has been every July Fourth since 2002, and the only way to enter and exit will be through one of 19 screening points that open at 10 a.m., Chief Pettiford said.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier urged July Fourth revelers to arrive early and limit the number of bags they bring, because each one will be searched at the screening points.

Parking restrictions will be expanded, and Metropolitan Police will be “diligent” in making sure vehicles are not parked or stopped in restricted areas, Chief Lanier said. She recommended taking public transportation.

Metro Transit Police will partner with the Transportation Security Administration to increase security in Metro stations and on trains, said Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson.

Air marshals and inspectors will “add another layer of security,” with plainclothes agents looking for suspicious behavior, she said. The Smithsonian Metro station will be closed because it is within the secure perimeter.

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