Police put up defenses downtown

Concrete barriers replace dump trucks around headquarters

Security is `permanent'

Precaution intended to protect city nerve center against attack

September 15, 2001|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore Police Department took a major step yesterday toward insulating itself against possible terrorist attacks by installing permanent concrete barriers around its downtown headquarters.

Workers with the city's Transportation Department began installing about 40 Jersey barriers yesterday afternoon on the Fayette Street side of the Police Department's two-building complex near City Hall.

The move, called "precautionary" by a police spokeswoman, was in response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington.

The barriers replaced a dozen or more 5-ton dump trucks filled with salt, sand and gravel that have been situated since Tuesday around the police complex as a makeshift shield against potential car-bomb explosions."[The barriers] are being put here to replace the sand trucks, and they will be here indefinitely as a security measure," said Ragina C. Averella, a Police Department spokeswoman. "Commissioner [Edward T.] Norris obviously feels that the security of police headquarters is important."

The police complex is the nerve center for the city's emergency response efforts, housing all radio communications equipment for police, fire and ambulance personnel.

This week's unprecedented events sent shock waves across the city. The World Trade Center at the Inner Harbor was evacuated Tuesday, and Mayor Martin O'Malley said city officials were on the highest state of alert in decades.

Norris called every available police officer to duty to work 12-hour shifts. Tactical officers were stationed outside police headquarters, City Hall, the Inner Harbor and some downtown buildings. Brandishing a submachine gun, tactical officer Steve Owens remained outside police headquarters yesterday.

Some streets remained cordoned off to protect what officials consider "sensitive areas."

Yesterday's installation of barriers outside the Police Department was one of the first permanent steps the city has taken in response to the crisis.

The process was slow. Two yellow Caterpillar front-loaders picked up the large concrete barriers, one by one, in front of the city's District Court building, then rolled down Fayette Street to place them carefully on the edge of the sidewalk outside police headquarters.

Steven Henderson, a city transportation supervisor who was coordinating the effort, predicted the installation would take about five hours. He said barriers would be positioned along the President Street side of department headquarters as well.

Jersey barriers, which are often used in narrow highway medians to prevent cars from crossing over into oncoming traffic, are designed to withstand the force of a major impact.

"They're there permanently at this point," said Averella. "It's like everything else we've done this week - precautionary. Because you just don't know."

Sun staff writer Jamie Stiehm contributed to this article.

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