Protecting the Perimeter

Innovative funding ideas keep metro Atlanta protected and prepared


"Regionally, we cover an area from Alpharetta in the north to Palmetto in the south, and along the Interstate 20 corridor for about 30 miles across the city, including the airport in the southwest," says Savage. "We employ gateway technology when there is a major incident, and it works, but there is still some disparity among agencies," he continues. Savage adds that his department is looking at an automatic vehicle location (AVL) system to work with its radios without having recurring costs.

Allocating airport funds

The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is one of the world's busiest, with nearly a quarter million passengers traveling through every day. A special unit of the Atlanta Police Department is located at the airport and provides a very visible presence.

As the aviation security director at ATL, Richard Duncan is responsible for the entire airport infrastructure, including employees. Duncan's staff is also responsible for maintaining a safe passage for travelers at all times.

"We have over 55,000 employees here," Duncan says, and notes that all employees undergo thorough background checks. In addition, employees are encouraged to and rewarded for reporting inconsistencies with security.

"Our people go out and test — we walk around secure areas without proper identification and 94 percent of the time we are almost immediately challenged by one of our staff. That's good, but we want 100 percent."

While Duncan keeps an eye on the airport facility, the Atlanta Police Department takes care of enforcement and responds accordingly to airport-related incidents. The Department of Aviation funds the Atlanta Police Department through a combination of UASI, TSA and DHS grants totaling about $3 million per year.

Duncan's team must be responsive to unforeseen incidents as well. "We have a care team that responds to unusual events," he says.

Jam-packed airplanes, long security lines and passenger frustration dominate the news these days in the aviation industry. Herschel Grangent Jr., media relations manager at ATL and former public information officer for the DeKalb County (Atlanta) Police Department takes it all in stride.

Grangent says maintaining a calm atmosphere is necessary but sometimes things do get tense. But the special unit of the Atlanta Police Department is standing by, on alert and ready to keep the peace, just in case.

Although the airport is the size of a medium city, there is relatively little crime and the majority of incidents are minor.

Cash for K-9 protection

Sgt. Robert Bailey, head of the Atlanta K-9/ E.O.D. Unit says specialized explosive containment and disposal equipment along with highly trained dogs have been funded by a combination of TSA, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and UASI grants along with general budgetary items from the Atlanta Police Department.

More than a dozen K-9 dogs and their handlers respond to calls every day involving suspicious packages anywhere at the airport including on board an aircraft, according to Bailey. The cost of training and maintaining this specialized "team" is $100,000 a year, and is provided by the Atlanta Police Department through FAA grants.

This K-9 team consists of Senior Police Officer Derrick Davis and a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever named Sheriff. K-9 Sheriff and Davis were both trained together at Auburn University Canine Detection Training Center, in McClellan, Alabama.

Part of K-9 Sheriff's responsibilities include searching for explosives by conducting personnel screening and "air scenting" in the unsecured public areas of the airport terminal.

An example of "air scenting" is when a target odor is detected, K-9 Sheriff will sit to indicate he's found something suspicious. Sheriff also "works" an airplane as he enters each jet methodically by checking under every seat, seat pocket and overhead bin until he detects a target odor.

According to Bailey, his police unit just purchased a $70,000 bomb retrieval robot from Allen-Vanguard engineered to maneuver down the aisle of smaller regional jets. It is designed to retrieve objects from airplanes, confined areas or underneath a vehicle. The Remotec item retrieval robot costs about $250,000 and Bailey considers it the "workhorse" of the fleet.

A 'model' public safety initiative
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