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Officials Close First Street, Erect More Checkpoints

In an attempt to intensify security on Capitol Hill, Senate officials announced the closure of a major thoroughfare Monday afternoon and the creation of “security checkpoints” on all streets leading into the Capitol complex.

In a joint statement issued Monday, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) announced the immediate closure of First Street Northeast between the Russell and Dirksen Senate office buildings.

The order is similar to one issued in 1995, when Senate officials closed Delaware Avenue Northeast adjacent to the Dirksen Building, following the April bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building.

In addition, the Senators stated that perimeter security checkpoints will be erected on all streets related to the Capitol grounds. The statement did not detail the policy of vehicle searches, such as whether searches would be conducted at random or on each vehicle.

“The safety and security of the American people, the Senate staff and our democratic institutions is our highest priority,” Frist and Daschle said in a joint statement. “These enhanced security measures will help protect all those who work in, visit, or drive by the Capitol. We are working diligently with the Capitol Police and the District of Columbia to minimize the traffic disruptions that may arise.”

A spokesman for D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (D) did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. But because streets included in the Capitol complex are under exclusive control of Congress, Senate officials would not need to consult with the District government before issuing any closures.

When contacted mid-afternoon Monday, a Capitol Police spokesman declined to comment on the street closure, stating only that “multiple security enhancements” will be put into place, the result of a recent Homeland Security Department announcement about specific terrorist threats to financial institutions in Washington, D.C., New York and New Jersey.

Capitol Police have confirmed they will step up the number of vehicle stops to screen for explosives and other hazardous materials in the areas patrolled by Capitol Police. In addition to the Congressional grounds, the Capitol Police have jurisdiction over the area bounded by H Street on the north, P and M streets on the south, Third Street to the west and Seventh Street to the east.

The law-enforcement agency also plans to increase its manpower by implementing 12-hour shifts for officers, who will be limited to one day off per week.