Posted Tuesday, Aug. 3, 5:54 p.m.
Students moving into GW dorms later this month may be affected by heightened security measures in Foggy Bottom. After a new terrorism warning Sunday named nearby buildings as potential targets, some students may have their vehicles inspected by police.
Freshmen moving into Thurston Hall, which houses over 1,000 students, will also be prevented from parking near the building’s F Street entrance under the current security precautions.
Metropolitan Police announced the measures Tuesday after the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror threat level in parts of Washington, New York City and Newark, N.J.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Sunday that he learned of unusually specific threats to financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (19th and G streets) and World Bank headquarters (1818 H St.) near GW.
Because intelligence suggests an attack in the form of a car or truck bomb, police officials said all trucks, vans and sport-utility vehicles traveling through a “safe zone” around the IMF and World Bank buildings will be subject to inspection. The area stretches from E Street to I Street and 17th Street to 20th Street, encompassing several University residence halls.
Parking bans also went into effect this week from 18th Street to 20th Street and from F Street to the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue. No traffic will be allowed on H Street between 18th and 19th streets near the World Bank.
University and MPD officials said they are working to minimize the inconvenience for students, most of which will arrive on campus beginning Aug. 28. But as of Tuesday, no specific plan had been agreed on.
John Petrie, GW’s assistant vice president for emergency management, said the University agreed to inspect the vehicles of all students moving in with trucks, though a specific inspection point had not been determined.
“We agreed that this was something we would do, but the details will determine if it’s better (for students),” he said.
MPD officials said they hoped to meet with GW to address the problem of blocked streets and parking bans during move-in days, but a specific meeting date has not been set.
“We’re already aware of that situation,” MPD Sgt. Joe Gentile said. “That came up in a meeting (Monday).”
Petrie said in a meeting with D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey Monday, he learned that the city expects the current “orange” threat level to last until the presidential election in November and possibly until the inauguration in January. Petrie cited announcements from Ridge last month that terrorists may try to disrupt the election.
“If the election is a decision point, the inauguration is too,” he said. “But that’s just Petrie speculating.”
Ridge said the uncertainty of the timeframe for an attack will not detract from security measures.
MPD will have increased police patrols throughout the city, particularly near the World Bank and IMF.
District officials are urging area residents to report suspicious behavior to law enforcement authorities but to continue going about their everyday lives. Petrie said residents already are heeding the advice.
“We’re hearing things being reported and they are being examined,” he said. “This is a clear indication that people are paying attention to things around them.”
Petrie said he encourages members of the GW community to visit the Campus Advisories Web site (http://www.gwu.edu/~gwalert) for information about the terror threat alert and how GW is handling the situation.
“It’s absolutely critical that GW students, staff and faculty check Campus Advisories,” he said. “That’s where they’ll be able to check for details.”