Metro officials said Monday they will increase security across the transit system as a precautionary measure in response to Osama bin Laden being killed by U.S. Navy SEALs.
Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said the heightened security was “not related to any specific threat” and would continue “until further notice,” given that the summer tourist season is the busiest time for the transit system.
Chief Taborn said news of bin Laden’s death “sort of makes us aware that there are people out there with intentions of doing something harmful to the United States and particularly mass transit, which is always a very lucrative target.”
The chief said at a press conference that officials sent a memo to all employees reminding them to be vigilant and said officers would be looking for suspicious behavior.
Some of the security measures will be obvious to riders, who should see more of the agency’s 450 sworn officers on patrol around rail stations, trains and buses. Additional random bag searches are also a possibility. Other measures Chief Taborn described as “invisible” and declined to elaborate.
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier declined to discuss specific changes to the force’s security tactics, but urged residents to cooperate with police.
“The public is our first line of defense,” she said. “And it is critical that they remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior to the police by dialing 911.”
Chief Taborn said Metro has received more than $100 million in federal money to increase security, which has helped pay for closed-circuit cameras and more police officers.
He does not expect the increased security now to affect Metro’s budget, which still has a $66 million gap for fiscal 2012. Still, the agency would be grateful if the federal Transportation Security Administration offered to help pay for the increased security, he said.
Chief Taborn also said Metro officials participated in a conference call with the TSA and the chiefs of police for the county’s top 25 transit agencies and planned another conference call for the afternoon.
Other local law enforcement agencies also highlighted how they are relying on interagency collaboration to provide information needed to make security decisions.
“We’re more proactive while we try to get some sense from the intelligence community what our adversaries might be thinking,” said Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer. “The hair on the back of our neck is up a little bit, so we are trying to be cautious.”
U.S. Capitol Police are increasing the number of officers on the street by curtailing some training in an effort to increase visibility, Mr. Gainer said.
“Most visitors wouldn’t notice too much,” he said. “If you spend a lot of time on the Hill, you might notice more officers with heavier weapons.”
Police vehicles, with lights flashing and trunks opened, gathered at the base of the Hill early Monday, where Constitution and Pennsylvania avenues Northwest meet. Officers with automatic rifles examined approaching vehicles.
By early afternoon, the presence was less obvious, with patrol cars parked conspicuously at street corners approaching the Capitol.
The U.S. Park Police, which oversee security at the area’s national monuments and were charged with controlling the crowd outside the White House on Sunday night, will continue to adjust patrols and protocols based on daily assessments.
“Some adaptation may be visible, some may not be, but we’ll maintain a strong security posture,” said U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. David Schlosser.