Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

City’s Security Threatened

Farooque Ahmed, a 34-year-old naturalized citizen of the United States from Pakistan, was arrested Oct. 27 for plotting terrorist attacks on four Metro stations in Northern Virginia.

While the details of the attacks remain unclear, the incident raised many concerns about the vulnerability of the city to future attacks.

Although officials do not believe the attacks were imminent, the threat reinforced the need for comprehensive security measures in case of an emergency.

Following Ahmed’s arrest, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority released a statement informing Metro riders about its security strategies. According to the statement, the Metro Transit Police Department has an ongoing security program that conducts random patrols of facilities. Earlier this year, the MTPD launched the Blue Terrorism Identification and Deterrence Effort to coordinate local officers with other law enforcement agents in anti-terrorist patrols. A recent grant by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has also provided more than $9.5 million for the creation of a new anti-terrorism taskforce.

Georgetown’s location in the nation’s capital makes it sensitive to the potential threats targeting the District.

“The National Capital Region and Georgetown University face significant challenges in both threat – the NCR presents a higher-probability target – and coordination [as] over 30 federal law enforcement agencies operate within our area,” said Gary Shiffman, Georgetown’s director of Homeland Security Studies, in an email.

To ensure protection of the campus community, the university has developed preparedness strategies to respond to emergency situations. Public Safety Alerts are sent to all students, faculty and staff to make them aware of recent criminal activity on or near campus. Students enrolled in the university’s emergency notification system, HOYAlert, are also contacted via text, voicemail and email in the instance of emergency.

“Regular interaction and building trust between the university and state and local first responders remains the critical ingredient to enhancing the safety and security of the campus community,” Shiffman said.

Although the university does have strategies in place, it is important for students to remain vigilant about their personal safety and to report anything that might appear suspicious. Students can review the emergency guides or enroll in HOYAlert on the university’s website.

“Georgetown has spent a lot of time enhancing our overall safety and emergency preparedness efforts in recent years and is always looking at ways we can improve,” university spokeswoman Julie Bataille said in an email

The persistent threat of terrorism has also been a particular challenge for the federal government when considering how best to secure national landmarks and government buildings.

In the past year, defense of the White House has come under particular scrutiny after Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed a White House social dinner. The incident led to the dismissal of the White House social secretary and an internal review of Secret Service security procedures, according to CNN.

As at the White House, security at the U.S. Capitol, a popular internship destination for Georgetown students, remains strict. Prior to Sept. 11, the Capitol was open for entrance to any member of the public day or night. After the terrorist attacks, additional checkpoints for vehicle inspections were introduced outside the building, as well as extensive screening inside to ensure safety. The safety of the Capitol Visitor Center was also emphasized because it was designed to provide improved security at the Capitol and better protect members of Congress.

Closer, less famous sites also face security risks. The Washington Aqueduct, source of water to more than one million people around D.C., has received constant security improvements.

“[The security of the public water system] has been adjusted accordingly and is continuously reviewed and evaluated based on guidance and directives from the Department of Homeland Security and other national agencies,” the aqueduct’s website said. The aqueduct has its own laboratory to monitor the quality of the drinking water.

Despite the proximity of Georgetown to these sites, some students are not concerned about safety.

“I understand this kind of stuff happens. I use the buses every day to get to work, and I don’t think this will change that,” Gina Perlite (COL ’11) said.

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