The helicopter is equipped with Forward Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) and a Lo-Jack tracking device for stolen vehicles. As part of preventing terrorist activity, the aircraft regularly flies a flight path above all the critical infrastructures within the city's jurisdiction. Also, it fulfills functions related to community policing and proactive law enforcement by cooperating in disaster training drills with the incorporated cities of Coral Gables and Hialeah, and also with the United States Coast Guard in searches in Biscayne Bay. For the 2007 Super Bowl, the aviation detail assisted with the development of the air security plan with the U.S. Department of Defense.
During an impressive nighttime helicopter tour of Miami's shoreline, Sgt. Orlando Villaverde demonstrates the capability of FLIR and Night Sun technology aboard the aircraft. The Night Sun is used for visual searches at night or night approaches to non-illuminated landing areas. It is attached under the rear belly of the aircraft and remotely controlled from within the helicopter by the crewman or pilot. At a strength of 30-million candlepower, the Night Sun is very useful in power outages in the aftermath of a storm.
"We have the ability to utilize state-of-the-art technology to support our patrol units and provide surveillance not possible from ground locations," Villaverde says
• Marine units
Protecting the Port of Miami is the responsibility of the Miami-Dade Police Department. The complexity of the waterways within and surrounding Miami make it necessary for the U.S. Coast Guard, port security and water fire rescue departments, the Miami PD, and the federal border patrol and immigration agencies to work cohesively as a team.
Sgt. Mike Gonzalez of the city's Marine Patrol/ SWAT unit explains some of the safety capabilities that working together can create:
"Protecting the infrastructure near the waterways is a 24/7 operation. We assist the State Marine Patrol by keeping the port channel clear of other traffic when there are more than two cruise ships in port. Our divers are equipped with underwater cameras to search for any potential terrorist activity on cruise and cargo ships and often operate with [U.S.] Customs to validate manifests and look for hidden compartments on vessels where contraband or explosives may be hidden.
"Some of the larger cruise ships hold more than 2,000 passengers and crew. If more than two [ships] are in the port at any given time, there is a potential for a dangerous situation whether it be from an accident or terrorist activity. We even prepare for bio-terrorism and the possibility of thousands of travelers arriving in the city infected with some sort of biological agent. We constantly review our emergency procedures with surrounding agencies and the health department to make sure we have the necessary equipment and resources in place to deal with any type of emergency occurring on the water."
Two vessels purchased from Safe Boats International with $440,000 in Port Security Grants each contain FLIR and global position system (GPS) navigation in addition to sophisticated sonar capabilities.
• Other tactical equipment
Deputy Chief of Police Frank Fernandez comments on the use of strategic grant funding to equip the Miami PD with state-of-the-art technology and equipment: "In addition to the helicopter and boats, we have been able to use the [federal] UASI, Port Security, Buffer Zone Security, community policing and drug trafficking grants to make significant purchases," he says.
For example, the department has used various grants to purchase ATVs, two Skywatch elevated platforms ($110,000 each), and two mobile command units.
• News monitoring
Miami PD officers constantly monitor international news for incidents which could spark a reaction in Miami's diverse population. And no event is expected to draw as much public demonstration as the seemingly imminent death of Fidel Castro.
"We are prepared for an outpouring of emotion when that happens," says Chief of Police Timoney. "We're monitoring that situation closely and have met with all necessary community leaders. We all want the same outcome — to let the Cuban community express their emotions safely." News of Castro's death could bring upwards of 100,000 people to the streets in less than an hour.
• Proactive CCTV surveillance
Utilizing a $2.3 million grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security, Miami has begun installing surveillance cameras in five strategic locations near the city's most critical infrastructure areas. The cameras will serve a twofold purpose: first to monitor activity which could unveil terrorist activity and second to maintain visual contact with an ongoing incident.