News & Politics

Get Ready for Extra Security Across DC After Paris Attacks and ISIS Video

The new normal, again. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

People should brace themselves to see additional police officers and other security measures across DC, especially in Metro, in the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and an apparent threat from the group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria of similar strikes on Washington.

The Metro Transit Police Department announced Monday that it will deploy additional offices to stations and expand its use of random bag searches and K9 unit sweeps, hours after the release of a video from ISIS in which a member of the terrorist group claims credit for the Paris attacks and says “we will strike America at its center in Washington.”

Metro ramped up patrols Friday night as Paris while the carnage in Paris was still playing out, and the transit agency says today riders should expect to see the additional security presence for an “unspecified period of time.” Transit police have 20 K9 teams throughout stations and other system infrastructure. Metro says it is also implementing “several other countermeasures that are not visible to the traveling public.”

Metro officials are also encouraging riders to be extra-vigilant about unattended packages and to alert transit police of any suspicious activity at 202-962-2121.

DC’s other law enforcement agencies haven’t been as emphatic about their responses to Friday night’s events in France, but there are extra security measures all over town. Capitol Police told members of Congress and their staff today that while there are no specific threats against the legislative branch right now, they should exercise “simple precautions,” like using the tunnels beneath the Capitol complex instead of braving the treacherous outdoors in one of the most heavily policed locations in Washington. Capitol Police have also increased their visibility in response to the events in Paris.

That the horror of what happened in Paris on Friday—with bombings and mass shootings outside a packed soccer stadium, in restaurants, and inside a crowded music venue—would put security personnel on edge for a few days is not that alarming. What’s a little jarring is how expected they are after terrorist attacks in other cities, even when there is no credible threat to DC. The police agencies that are ratcheting up their activities this week did the same after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are closely monitoring the unfolding events in Paris and we remain in contact with our counterparts in the region,” reads an FBI statement that the bureau has been sending out since Friday night. “At this time, there is no specific or credible threat to the United States. We will not hesitate to adjust our security posture, as appropriate, to protect the American people. DHS and the FBI routinely share information with our state, local, federal and international law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security partners, and continually evaluate the level of protection we provide at federal facilities.”

Perhaps the most sober reaction to the Paris attacks from local law enforcement came from DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who on Saturday reminded the Metropolitan Police Department’s community email groups of the obvious fact that DC is always a potential target for terrorist plots:

While the specifics relating to those responsible, and the planning of the Paris attack, will become more apparent as the investigation continues, I wanted to use this opportunity to remind everyone how important it is to always be on the lookout for suspicious activities and to promptly report them if observed. Simply reporting a suspicious activity, however small, may be the linchpin in disrupting a pending attack before it can be acted upon. With this said, let me be clear—there is no known, credible threat to Washington D.C, at this time. However, we must always remember that Washington will always be an attractive target to those wishing to do harm to us.

Not that this means the MPD is soft-pedaling it while other police forces get heavy. Starting with the cars they parked outside the French Embassy on Friday night, DC have been dispatching additional patrols throughout the city, and will do so until, Lanier wrote, “we feel circumstances dictate that they are no longer needed.”

Much of downtown DC got a possible whiff of this on Monday morning, when a woman who barricaded herself in a K Street office building overnight kept nine city blocks closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic until shortly after 11 AM. While police say the incident stemmed from the suspect’s apparent “mental health issues” and had nothing to do with terrorism, the entire morning was—as periods following terrorist incidents are—extra jittery and heavily armed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.