Stricter Security Measures Part of New Environment
Drummond, Daniel F., Honawar, Vaishali, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Daniel F. Drummond and Vaishali Honawar
Residents of the Washington area will have to get used to new inconveniences as the nation tightens security measures for the long haul.
More stringent security and identification checks will become the norm at military and government buildings in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Government and other workers also can expect more drills to prepare them for orderly evacuation during an emergency.
State police and federal inspectors are stopping and inspecting trucks carrying hazardous cargo amid concerns that such vehicles could be used by terrorists. The spot inspections likely will continue as the nation's war against global terrorism proceeds.
In the wake of the attacks, area commuters re-evaluated their routes to work as military installations and other government buildings stepped up security precautions.
The question now is how much of the new routine is permanent.
"There's potential for our political climate and security measures to change in a year, and you'd hope if we maintain this level of security we would find ways to better accommodate it - either through moving checkpoints or expanding turn lanes, or even something as simple as adjusting traffic lights," says Justin McNaull, spokesman for the American Automobile Association's Mid-Atlantic chapter.
D.C. officials say parking spaces in the city will continue to be harder to find for residents, commuters and tourists. Parking attendants as well as police officers have been instructed to keep a closer eye on suspicious cars or individuals parked in front of public buildings.
Some things are certain - more folks will try telecommuting, others will try mass transit.
Uniformed and plainclothes officers of the Metro Transit Police are making more rounds of the area transit system's 83 rail stations as well as trains and buses.
Officers and other Metro employees monitor surveillance cameras in the stations; the transit system will spend $2.3 million to attach digital video recorders to the cameras.
Sensors in some Metro stations are designed to detect chemical or biological agents, and transit officials are talking about expanding the pilot program in light of the terrorist attacks. The sensors, in place since 1999, are part of a $17 million, five-year program in association with the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Justice.
The transit system has taken other security measures, Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann says, but "frankly, those are things we'd rather not talk about and can't talk about."
As yet there are no plans to make Metro riders pass through metal detectors, or to search their bags. But transit officials will seek $20 million from the federal government for improved security gear, which could include bomb-detection or X-ray devices.
Tightening of security at public schools also is in the cards, Maryland Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick says.
"Our schools have been very open to the public. Parents and community members have had pretty broad access with no ID checks or anything like that," Mrs. …