Area Law Enforcement Try to Keep Things Secure

BY PATRICE ST. GERMAIN
patrices @thespectrum.com

Sept. 11, 2001, reminded law enforcement agencies about the need for tighter security, better communications and specialized training, but St. George police were already on that track before the terrorist attacks.

St. George Police Department public information officer Craig Harding said the department was already looking to make the community secure because of the Winter Olympics to be held in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

“We were making sure our area was secure and then September 11 happened,” Harding said.

The attacks also increased the urgency for law enforcement to have specialized units to deal with bomb disposal, a hazmat team and SWAT team, because the department realized they couldn't rely on services outside the area, Harding said.

Dean Cox, emergency services director for Washington County, also stressed the importance of the hazmat team.
“We never had one before and this has lifted our response capability,” Cox said. “Before, we used to have to wait about eight hours for a team out of the Wasatch Front.”
Cox said the state was divided into regions for homeland security and the southwest region, Region 4, is made up of Washington, Iron, Beaver, Garfield and Kane counties.
Since the inception of Region 4, Cox has served as chairperson and said the communities received a substantial amount of money. Cox said he thinks the money has been used wisely.

After putting the hazmat team together, Cox said the next step was interoperable communications, which would connect agencies.

Due to the expense, the system has been put together over the years, which included laptop computers for all the law enforcement agencies and will finish up by equipping fire and EMS units with laptops.

Servers and Spillman software to link the communities together is like a quantum leap forward for law enforcement and public safety, Cox said.

All of the specialized teams, training communications and creation of Community Emergency Response Teams has made the community safer and increased response capabilities.
“We are in substantially better shape here in Southern Utah than five years ago,” Cox said.