Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Security checkpoints coming to National Zoo


The National Zoo will implement temporary security checks at entrances during the busy spring period, a new move at the traditionally screening-free attraction, director Dennis Kelly said.

The new measures will be similar to security checks at the National Mall’s July 4 fireworks ceremony, Kelly said at a Woodley Park advisory neighborhood commission meeting on March 16. Security will screen visitors and their bags for prohibited weapons and banned items like alcohol.

“Increased security measures will shortly go into effect for March and April when the spring break period for local schools overlaps with increased visitation,” spokesperson Devin Murphy said in an email to District Wire. “For safety and security reasons Smithsonian policy will not permit us to release those dates ahead of time.”

About 30,000 visitors are expected March through April. Security checks will also be implemented during other high-traffic events, such as a visit from a foreign dignitary, Kelly said.

The new security measures come after two men were wounded in a shooting last Easter Monday just outside the zoo, the Washington Post reported. In a statement, the Smithsonian said the decision to screen this year was made after months of study.

The zoo draws large crowds from across the area for its annual Easter Monday events, and the day has seen violence before. In 2000, seven people were shot outside the zoo, and in 2011, a teenager was stabbed, according to an article in the Washington Post.

Violence in the past has tended to occur just outside the zoo, however, so some neighborhood officials are still concerned about the ability of multiple agencies to handle large crowds. D.C. police, U.S. Park Police and Metro transit police all have jurisdiction close to the zoo.

“Checkpoints are going to control access into the zoo and should be presenting a deterrent to people who’d want to come to the zoo and create problems,” Carl Roller, chair of the Woodley Park ANC, said. “To the extent they still may come, that’s why we want to also make sure the steps and measures implemented by MPD, Metro transit, park police and other agencies are also appropriate to the situation.”

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