‘Keep a watchful eye’: DC’s efforts to keep visitors safe during Fourth of July

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 04: Spectators watch as fireworks erupt over the Washington Monument on July 4, 2022 in Washington, DC. Crowds lined the National Mall to watch the capitals annual fireworks show celebrating Independence Day. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)(Getty Images/Nathan Howard)

If you’re planning to check out D.C.’s variety of Fourth of July festivities, expect to see more police and public safety officials around town.

“Mayor Bowser is activating Public Safety Go Teams on July 3 and 4,” said Lindsey Appiah, D.C.’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice.

Go Teams aren’t novel for the city. They’ve been used as a crime prevention and community relations resource in the past few years during the Independence Day holiday weekend, and last year during Labor Day weekend and Halloween weekend. Now they are being used to keep rising violent crime rates from marring this year’s holiday weekend.

“Our Safety Go Teams consist of non-law enforcement, government employees and community partners, credible messengers, violence interrupters, community engagement specialists, staff from the Mayor’s Office of Community Relations and Services and others that will be assigned to 28 hot spot neighborhoods across the district,” Appiah said during a news conference outlining Fourth of July public safety plans.

Events for visitors and residents include the Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue and the annual Capital Fourth concert on the National Mall followed by a fireworks display. A smaller local parade will take place in northwest D.C. and the local government is sponsoring a concert featuring Washington’s signature Go-Go music at Freedom Plaza near the White House.

“The type of activity that we don’t want, it’s attracted to places where there aren’t lots of people or lots of government presence,” Appiah said.

Police staffing levels are also boosted for the weekend, and law enforcement agencies are keeping an eye out for threats or attacks.

“MPD and our federal partners have been sharing information and monitoring all potential threats to ensure this holiday goes on as planned,” D.C.’s Interim Chief of Police Ashan Benedict said. “There is no indication of any specific attacks targeting our city, but with that, it is important to keep, everyone, a watchful eye and report anything that seems suspicious.”

This weekend will be a first for D.C.’s new Emergency Operations Center, according to D.C.’s Director of Homeland Security Chris Rodriguez.

“We will welcome over 70 agencies from the federal, state and local levels to this 42,000 square foot facility on July 4 where we will activate for the first time,” Rodriguez said.

From there, they will “coordinate resources, public safety and communications needs,” Rodriguez said.

D.C.’s fire chief knows fireworks are a huge part of this weekend, but if you’re thinking of doing them yourself, here’s a reminder to help keep you out of hot water.

“Fireworks that explode, move or emit sparks larger than 12 feet are illegal in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly said.

If you do want to report illegal fireworks, 911 is not the place for that.

“Please remember to use 911 for reporting emergencies. If you want to report illegal fireworks, report those by calling 311, so we can leave the emergency lines open,” Benedict said.

Fire Chief Donnelly said D.C. Fire’s Arson Tip Line is also a resource for reporting the sale of illegal fireworks in the District, at 202-673 ARSON.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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