Lady Of The Harbor
Lady Of The Harbor

Mar 1, 2000 12:00 PM
Don Garbera

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." These words, inscribed on a tablet mounted in the pedestal of the Statue Of Liberty in New York Harbor, were for many years the first thing immigrants saw as they arrived at their new home. Given to the United States by France in 1886, the Statue of Liberty is made of one-eighth-inch thick copper, with an interior support structure.

The statue sits in New York Harbor on an island claimed by two states: New York and New Jersey. The "Lady Of The Harbor" is flanked on one side by Ellis Island, once the principal entry point to the United States. Ellis Island was the crossroads of the world where immigrants had to undergo a health inspection, legal investigation, and answer questions before they could be granted entry into the country.

Today, these two islands are among the most visited tourist attractions in the world. However, they can also attract something else - terrorism. Because the islands are a high-profile target, they employ a sophisticated security system, and some of the finest United States Park Police officers.

"We work for the National Park Service. Our mission is to preserve and protect these resources for future generations," says Lieutenant Chris Pappas, head of the site's police force. "We make sure visitors have a positive experience, and we provide for their safety and well-being, along with protecting the site itself."

Charles Guddemi agrees, and as one of the patrol sergeants, he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of maintaining security. He is also the team's physical fitness coordinator.

Access on the islands is controlled by a card system that covers certain high-risk locations, and all administrative buildings. Separate card systems are maintained for each island.

The islands are also extensively covered by video surveillance. The installation features Sony SSC-DC50A/54A ExWave HAD color cameras used to maximize sensitivity and reduce smear through the use of microlenses. The camera delivers higher resolution and more accurate color images, important for low-light applications. Sony SPT-MB14 monochrome video cameras were also installed. They feature wide-range iris functions that compensate for back-light and low-light conditions such as the dark side of the monument at sundown. The camera was designed for surveillance and space-critical applications. The color and black-and-white cameras can be found throughout all locations. They watch all public areas such as the stairs leading to the top of the statue, the museum, the food concession stand and the souvenir shop. They are also located in public hallways, and within administrative buildings where they monitor ingress and egress points. In addition, there is a Sony recorder in use which aids real-time and time-lapse recording.

The security command center houses Pelco switchers and multiplexers, along with Sony monitors and time-lapse recorders. Specific locations are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If an occurrence requires more than a preliminary investigation, the incident is handed over to the U.S. Park Police Criminal Investigations Unit headquartered at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, N.Y. Emergency medical technicians are also located at the site. If required, they have first-aid capabilities, and have available such items as oxygen and defibrillators.

The two islands employ approximately 150 people. Everyone from visitors to park staff must pass through metal detectors when they first set foot on the islands. Their possessions must also pass through an EG&G (now Perkin Elmer) x-ray machine. Garrett hand-held wands are employed as well. Employees are issued separate ID cards which consist of their picture, and passes to their designated areas that are made on an Identicard system.

The site incorporates its own K-9 unit. Trained dogs do regular tours, and are available to sniff any suspicious packages arriving at the islands, or any property left behind by tourists. They are also a part of a top-to-bottom island sweep conducted every night after the park closes. Officers check all hallways, alcoves and bathroom facilities.

Shoreline security is maintained around-the-clock by roving boat patrols, foot patrol officers and video surveillance. Air security is handled by the New York Police Department's Aviation Unit.

Park police officer training Prior to being assigned to a national park site, officers are sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga., for 18 weeks of intensive training. Afterwards, they receive 12 weeks of field training.

Guddemi, as fitness coordinator, is in charge of the park's fitness center, located on the premises. Park police must stay physically fit; they are tested twice a year. The five-part exam tests body fat composition, flexibility, strength, agility and ability to run a mile-and-a-half. Scores are tabulated based on age and gender.

Recently, Guddemi's team handled an incident which demonstrated their ability to respond rapidly. A visitor to the Statue of Liberty suffered a heart attack while climbing the narrow one-person-at-a-time staircase, consisting of 354 steps, up to the crown. The park's EMTs responded instantly, and determined that the attack warranted transporting the victim by Medivac helicopter to a hospital on the main land. Officers cleared the area of visitors, and set up a landing zone for the helicopter which was able to touch down safely and remove the individual. The person received fast medical attention, and survived the heart attack.

The park, which handled five million visitors last year, is aggressive in planning future security operations. "We will maintain our current system, and we are looking to upgrade when new technology gets introduced. This, coupled with continuous training of officers, is what the future is all about for us," says Guddemi.

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