DC police beef up security over holiday weekend

WASHINGTON — Ahead of the Independence Day weekend festivities, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said it’s all hands on deck to keep residents and visitors safe.

“So you will see visible increase in presence by [Metropolitan Police Department] because this is a holiday weekend. A lot of people choose to travel on the holidays and lot of people choose to travel here,” Lanier said.

Following a violent Fourth of July weekend last year, Lanier said police officers will be deployed throughout the city, some working extended hours. In 2015, there was a fatal stabbing on the Metro and a fatal shooting in Southeast D.C. over the holiday weekend.

When it comes to working over the holiday, Lanier said it’s somewhat of a tradition as a police officer to work on Independence Day, but she admits that also means they have a great view of the fireworks.

Lanier said she knows of no threats to the District, but recent terrorist attacks overseas have altered her security plan.

“There has been some small changes. We have a pretty tight security plan for the Fourth of July with our partners. But it’s nothing significant and nothing that should change the ability of people to feel safe and still celebrate,” Lanier said.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said safety is paramount.

“We are focused on having a safe weekend,” she said.

Bowser said 18 newly trained call takers will be starting at the city’s Unified Communication Center to handle the likely influx of calls to 311 and 911.

July Fourth also is an all hands on deck event for U.S. Park Police, but even with more officers in and around the crowd, Lt. James Murphy from U.S. Park Police said they need people in the crowd to be their eyes and ears.

“Whether you think it’s suspicious, out of the ordinary or just doesn’t feel right, please notify one the uniformed personnel working the event,” Murphy said.

Park Police Chief Rob McLean said the department trains for and is ready to respond to many types of incidents, from active shooters to people wearing suicide vests.

Getting the word out via text messages

U.S. Park Police plan to utilize its text messaging system in the case of any emergency event. Visitors are encouraged to text “JULY4” to 888777 to receive event notifications on Monday.

Park Police also plan to use the text messaging service to re-connect lost children with their families. Parents are encouraged to take photos of their children when they arrive at the National Mall, so in a situation where children get separated, an up-to-date picture of a child can be sent out, so revelers can help find them.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report from Washington.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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