WASHINGTON - With Thursday’s security scare at Joint Base Andrews and shooting incidents that happened at the U.S. Capitol and outside of the White House earlier this year, these are just a few examples of how on edge our area has become when it comes to security.
Now, on the heels of the Istanbul airport attack, police and security officials are taking extreme caution with the massive crowds that are expected on the National Mall on the Fourth of July.
The security concerns are real and U.S. Park Police are delivering a dual message as the holiday weekend approaches. They want people to come down here to enjoy the fireworks and enjoy the concert. But what they don't want is anyone to be surprised to find a massive security presence in the area on Monday, which could bring hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall.
If you are coming down to this area on Monday, you will have to go through security screening. There will be eight security access points around the National Mall – open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. All bags, coolers and backpacks will be subject to search at those checkpoints. Alcohol, marijuana, glass, weapons, fireworks are prohibited. This year, Park police are reminding people drones are prohibited as well.
Park Police said they were aware of the alarm at Joint Base Andrews Thursday morning, and while that report of an active shooter turned out to be incorrect, they had a blunt message telling people that they want them to continue to contact authorities if they see something unusual.
"We are advising the public that they are our eyes and ears for law enforcement,” said U.S. Park Police Lt. Jim Murphy. “If they see something, say something. Whether you think it is suspicious, out of the ordinary or just doesn't feel right, please notify one of the uniformed personnel working the event.”
Park Police also revealed two drone incidents that occurred last week. One happened in Anacostia Park where the operator was cited and another occurred on the National Mall where the drone operator was not located.
"The fact that we have to look up now instead of just around is just another thing that has changed in law enforcement,” said U.S. Park Police Chief Robert MacLean. “I have been on 25 years before the advent of a lot of technology that our officers wear on their belt now."
Police said they are asking everyone to attending the Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall to sign up for their free emergency text alert system called NIXLE. In the event of an emergency, you will be able to receive alerts directly from Park Police.