Since the Tucson shootings that seriously injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), U.S. Capitol Police have urged members of Congress to be more vigilant. Lawmakers' aides now coordinate public activities in home districts with local law enforcement authorities. There are new protocols for reporting death threats, strange phone calls, and suspicious Facebook postings, says the Washington Post. The Secret Service is planning seminars for lawmakers and their staffs on how to assess the security of venues to minimize risk at gatherings.
There is cause for the concern. Between October and March, 53 serious threats against members of Congress were reported, a 13 percent increase from the same six-month period a year earlier. At the same time, the number of non-criminal cases (such as alarming but not specifically threatening e-mails or phone calls) jumped by 18 percent, to 1,211. “Unlike a year ago when it was all health care, these threats run the social-economic gamut: health, pay benefits, veterans issues, Medicare,” said Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer. Gainer said federal and local prosecutors have filed more charges this year against suspected perpetrators than in previous years. “I'm not trying to paint the picture that the sky is falling,” Gainer said. “But we're in some unique times, and there's still some unstable folks out there.” In some places, securing a congressional event has required every police officer on duty.