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Diversity in the district: from Metro's underground to Capitol Hill, security professionals in Washington, D.C.face unique challenges.

From Metro's underground to Capitol Hill, security professionals in Washington, D.C. face unique challenges.

Security in transit. While visitors to New York City may take the subway only as a last resort, Washington, D.C.'s tourists need not be so hesitant to join the roughly one million people who ride the city's Metro and bus system yearly. Metro Transit Police Chief Burton Murrow attributes his department's success to its policy of zero tolerance. His 287 officers strictly enforce minor violations, such as smoking, eating, and drinking. "By doing that, they create a high visibility," which discourages more serious crime from occurring in the transit system, says Murrow.

While some officers have individual beats that cover three stations and the trains in-between, a mobile patrol unit responds to specific calls for police assistance over the system's 1,489 square miles of stations, tracks, and parking lots. Other officers cover outlying stations by bike, cruising a station's lot and then moving on to the next stop down the line to secure the system from crime. Three trained dogs assist officers in drug detection and in tracking lawbreakers. "When somebody has broken into one of our facilities and is leaving the area," says Murrow, the dogs can be used "to see which way they went."

Metro station platforms are monitored by cameras, and intercoms permit passengers to call security from platforms and inside trains. If riders have trouble on a rail car between station stops, they "notify the driver, who notifies central, who notifies us, and we have someone meet the train," says Murrow. These incidents usually involve something minor like rowdy children, he notes.

That's not to say that Metro has no serious crime. From January to May, the system experienced 345 incidents of assault, arson, burglary, homicide, theft, rape, and robbery; 151 cases of stolen property, mostly from cars; and 71 stolen vehicles. Some perpetrators are caught in the act by undercover officers who ride the buses and rails in plain clothes. In addition, special surveillance teams are set up at parking lots that experience trouble. An officer will take a position where he or she can view the lot with binoculars and will radio the mobile patrols when suspicious activity is detected. "We have made many arrests," says Murrow, "and gotten convictions."

In the seventy mostly underground Metro stations, where large crowds waiting for the next train make tempting targets, theft is a constant concern. Among the Metro's security staff is one of the foremost experts on pickpockets, says Murrow. His expertise helps the force target criminals who flock to the system during major events, such as the Fourth of July celebration. "For the inauguration," says Murrow, "we arrested four [pickpockets] that were from out of town, operating with fur coats with the lining split."

Before joining the force, a Metro transit officer must undergo a background investigation and a psychological evaluation, take a drug test, and pass both a written and physical examination. If they are approved, they then attend training academies in all three jurisdictions covered by the system - Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. After graduating from the academies, they receive training specific to the transit authority's needs, for a total of twenty-seven weeks of training before they go out on the street. Another ten-week field officer training period follows in which new officers are graded daily by more experienced members of the force.

Cross-training is emphasized, but some officers specialize in investigations or undercover operations, and when individuals exhibit unique abilities, Murrow is quick to capitalize on the opportunity. He cites the case of a female officer who likes to draw. A sketch she made of an individual who had been harassing women on the trains enabled another officer to make an arrest. She's now been given more formal training in this field, says Murrow.

Officers are paid a competitive salary - starting at $26,000 - and are rewarded for exemplary performance through monthly, quarterly, and annual awards. That may explain why Murrow has no problem with turnover. As to why riders have few problems from criminals, Murrow sums it up this way: When thieves see that someone is watching them, "they'll go find some place that's easier pickings."

Blending past and present. The Stouffer Mayflower Hotel, located four blocks from the White House, dates back to the Coolidge administration. While the hotel retains the charms of the past, it also boasts the latest in security hardware, from a $40,000 CCTV network to a Trio Ving card access keying system for guest rooms. The presidential suites have in-room safes, electronic blinds, and video phones that permit a guest to screen visitors.

Physical security for the 660 room, 10-story facility is supplemented by a 15-member security team. Officers work in 3-person shifts, explains Carl Crawford, director of loss prevention for the hotel. One monitors surveillance cameras and handles dispatch duties; another is posted inside the promenade level where meeting rooms on a busy day can be filled with 1,500 to 3,000 people; the third officer patrols the guest floors. Officers alternate their tours on an hourly basis to stay alert.

Top security is essential for the hotel's many VIPs, which during the Clinton inaugural festivities included members of both the Clinton and Gore families, as well as numerous Hollywood celebrities, such as Linda Ronstadt and Richard Dreyfuss. "We tailor the security needs not to interfere with the people, but to make the stay more comfortable," says Crawford. That may mean providing total exclusion, assigning private elevators and escorts, or, in the case of a presidential stay, allowing the Secret Service to monitor food preparation and arbitrarily pick a meal for the president.

Guests, such as the Israeli peace negotiations team, require even greater protection. "We coordinate with them to make sure that they have total control over [their] floor during their stay," says Crawford. The team sets up its own temporary cameras to monitor the elevator lobby and establishes a command post with direct, two-way communications to the hotel's security base. Guests who will be located on floors above and below the protected location are also screened.

White-collar crime is harder to prevent. "We are very vulnerable," explains Crawford. "The word hospitality means we are hospitable." Guests cannot be given the third degree as they check in, and con artists know how to take advantage of the system. They prey, not on the guests, but on the hotel itself. A recent case involved an alleged business executive named Dr. John Addison. He ran up a $1,200 bill during a three-day visit before the hotel discovered he had been arrested eighty times and had so many aliases that, says Crawford, "he forgot what his real name was."

While the hotel is proud of its international dignitaries, it is equally proud to host the Paralyzed Veterans of America, which holds meetings at the hotel twice a year. While several of the hotel's rooms are equipped with aids for people who use wheelchairs, such as lower security chains and lower peep holes on the doors, security facilitates their stay in other ways, as well. "We put a place card in each of the rooms giving them specific instructions in the event of an emergency," says Crawford.

Each veteran is also issued a symbol card to hang on the door and one for the window to be seen from outside the building. In the event of a fire alarm, these permit security personnel and fire fighters to quickly identify rooms with disabled guests who need special help during an evacuation. The veterans are provided rooms on the lowest floor possible, and the fire department is alerted to come with extra personnel and equipment if an alarm is sounded during their stay.

Security officers are commissioned as special police with arrest authority on hotel property, but the hotel's location buffers it from the city's high-crime areas. More important to most guests are the officers' emergency medical skills. The evolution of these special duties for security personnel has given a new meaning to heroic actions. Crawford notes with satisfaction that the Washington Hotel Association picked a member of his staff as Officer of the Year in 1991 - not for collaring a criminal, but for his efforts to revive an eighty-year-old guest who had suffered a heart attack while staying at the hotel.

Security as destiny. Perhaps the most famous - or infamous - of Washington's nongovernmental institutions is the Watergate Hotel, where security - or the lack of security - in 1972 changed the course of history. "At that time," says Jack Porch, the hotel's present director of security, "there was contract security; there was not twenty-four hour coverage; training was inadequate. Since then, we've upgraded everything."

He's talking, of course, about the Watergate break-in that resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon. "We have probably increased our surveillance cameras 100 percent over what was back then. If they did the same thing today, they'd be on tape," explains Porch.

As a Washington landmark, the 236-room Watergate plays host to heads of state, as well as other dignitaries, and the permanent residence suites have at times been home to cabinet members. "To protect their privacy," says Porch, "all our front desk personnel are trained in what information can and cannot be given out. . . . We don't hesitate to ask anybody in this hotel if they are a guest and ask to see their room key."

To increase the chances that someone looking for trouble will be detected, Porch uses an erratic patrol system. "I don't like patterns," he explains. He tells his staff to double back from time to time. If they've checked the third floor, for instance, they should go to another area, then hit the third floor again.

All visitors must enter through the front or side doors, which are surveilled by cameras around the clock. For guests requiring tighter security, floors and elevators are restricted, packages are inspected by security. and even phone calls are routed through Porch's central command. In addition, he says, they perform a complete background check on all employees every six months. "Our employees' backgrounds are so diversified, we have to be real careful," he explains.

The Watergate's famous address can prove irresistible to criminals. Porch recently caught members of a phony nonprofit group that had checked into the hotel. "They were fund-raising, and they were going to use the Watergate address as a credible address," he says.

Officers are thoroughly trained in a forty-hour program that covers everything from report writing to CPR and crisis management. People skills are emphasized. One program teaches them how to deal with intoxicated guests, for instance. The hotel also has to handle demonstrators from time to time, as well as homeless people. "We have never had to lay physical hands on anyone," says Porch. "That comes from training my people to treat them like an individual and a person."

As is typical for hotels and other public establishments in the area, security officers are commissioned as special police officers. Even though the hotel's force is unarmed and trained in nonviolent techniques, Porch says he prefers individuals who have a military background, "because they are used to the paramilitary structure and being able to take orders without having a long drawn out definition as to why."

The security director also seeks out officers who want to use the position as a stepping stone to something more challenging, such as law enforcement, the Secret Service, or management. "I tell them if they want to be strictly security, I don't need them. They'd better be after my job," he says. "I get a better caliber officer that way."

The seat of government. While the World Trade Center bombing struck many Americans as the first time such an incident had occurred in this country, The Capitol building has been bombed three times: in 1915, 1971, and 1983. "It was the 1983 bombing that changed the nature of security within the Capitol complex," says Sergeant Dan Nichols, spokesperson for the U.S. Capitol police.

In response to that incident, which occurred at a time of high terrorist activity internationally, physical barriers were erected around the Capitol building, and metal detectors and X-ray machines were installed in the Capitol, as well as in the six House and Senate office buildings. The chamber floors in the Capitol and some administrative areas were permanently closed to the public.

The Capitol Hill complex is a forty-block federal enclave controlled by Congress. Within that area, the 1,239-member U.S. Capitol police force is responsible for the full range of police services from traffic enforcement to criminal investigations. Officers first undergo eight weeks of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glenco, Georgia; they then train for another eight weeks at the U.S. Capitol Police Training Academy. In addition to the usual courses, security officers must prepare to assist tourists by studying the history of Congress, the history of the U.S Capitol police, and city geography.

The force is divided into several units. "Our primary function is our uniform services bureau," says Nichols. These officers provide the first line of security at the doors to the Capitol and House and Senate office buildings. They also provide the full range of police services within the complex. Other units include a dignitary protection division, trained to accompany legislators on travel; a hazardous devices unit, which serves as a bomb squad (numbers of incidents are not made public); a threat assessment unit, which conducts investigations as needed; a criminal investigations division, which assists in such incidents as the House Post Office scandal: and a first-responder unit, responsible for VIP arrivals, security during demonstration activities, and protection of the exterior of the Capitol during a crisis.

The force is further supplemented by an antiterrorist unit; a tactical containment and emergency response team; a civil disturbance unit; an electronic countermeasures unit. and - on the low-tech end - a bike patrol.

"The guiding force up here has been to allow open access to citizens who want to visit the seat of democracy, watch Congress in session, or address grievances to their elected representatives," says Nichols. "However, it's still our responsibility to maintain a certain degree of security."

A world of security. The World Bank, an institution created to raise the standard of living in developing countries, is a bigger operation than most people think, says David Reed, CPP, chief of security, policy, and plans for the organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C. The international organization, owned by 160 member countries, has offices in eighteen buildings in the District of Columbia. Headquarters alone may have 25,000 to 30,000 people coming and going on a typical day. "Of course, we get many visitors who are ministerial level dignitaries or heads of state," says Reed.

The bank's security staff must balance concerns for access control with the sensibilities of many different cultures. Reed, who formerly handled government security for a consulting firm, explains that the World Bank's security team must "be more accommodating to the different needs of people rather than being hardware oriented as we were for some of our government clients when doing consulting."

Hardware still has its place, however. Security is taking advantage of an opportunity to put state-of-the-art equipment into four bank buildings under construction. They will include a central security operation center with a mainframe coordinating, access control for all of the World Bank's local offices. The new facilities will have specially designed protective glass, optical turnstiles, and CCTV. Reed chose a proximity access card system after deciding that smart cards were too expensive for his needs and biometrics were too slow. A biometric system is used in the high security trading room, from which the bank manages its investment transactions. "It's worked quite well," says Reed. "It's just that it is quite slow, and the people who use it become intolerant of it."

All offices are also getting a partial security makeover to include a new computerized lock and key system and new electronic access control tied to the bank's personnel database. "We will not only create ID cards that rant electronic access to about 25,000 people," Reed explains, "we'll have the capability to call up a person's file at our lobbies and to examine the person's file to include the photograph and the signature to make sure we've got the right person in case there's any problem with the card."

The system will include guard tour control, and it will be tied into fire protection systems. In the new buildings, Reed notes that security has had the usual problems with architects. "They weren't too happy about our wanting to put CCTV around." As a compromise, cameras will blend in with the design. "You have to know what you're looking for to see the eye of the camera," says Reed. "But we haven't really given up anything."
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Harowitz, Sherry L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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