Park Police: Security increased, leave drone at home for July 4

WASHINGTON — The July Fourth weekend is among the busiest weekend for law enforcement in D.C. As crowds descend on the District for celebrations, police agencies are finalizing their plans for keeping the day safe and secure.

“Security will be robust during the July Fourth celebration,” said Lt. James Murphy from U.S. Park Police.

After several high profile terrorist attacks — including the attack on an airport in Istanbul — cities around the globe are on high alert. So far, there have been no credible threats that involve the Capitol Fourth celebration, according to Murphy.

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.

July Fourth is an all hands on deck event for Park Police, but even with more officers in and around the crowd, Murphy 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.

Police are also ready to respond if the weather turns bad. With thunderstorms in the forecast for Monday, if bad weather kicks up along the National Mall, visitors will be ushered into nearby museums to escape the elements.

Drones stay home

On the list of prohibited items for the event, people will see guns, knives, bottles, alcohol, fireworks, explosives, marijuana and last but not least, drones.

MacLean said officers won’t only be looking around for trouble; they’ll be looking up and are ready to respond if they see a drone.

Drones are a fairly new problem and are a cause for concern for Park Police. The force has only dealt with 30 incidents involving drones, the most recent instance happened in the last week.

MacLean said in that case, airborne officers spotted the drone near Anacostia Park on Monday. The pilot was detained and cited for flying a drone in the no drone zone.

In many cases, situations involving drones involve individuals who are not aware of the District’s “no drone zone,” which includes parts of Maryland and Virginia. Flying drones within 15.5 miles of D.C. is illegal and can result in a person being detained, their drone confiscated and an $85 fine levied.

Among the fears police have about the unmanned crafts: people being hurt if one crashes, or law enforcement in helicopters and planes having a close encounter with one.

There is also a fear of drones being used for nefarious reasons.

“With an unmanned aircraft, there can be anything attached to that,” MacLean said.

Getting the word out via text messages

The force plans 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.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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