Security breach a concern

June 02, 2003 11:00 pm

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Making the U.S. Coast Guard station more secure is the goal of the commander of the cutter Dorado.

A proposal to build a security fence around the facility on Whaler Island will be discussed at tonight's meeting of the Board of Crescent City Harbor Commissioners.

"It doesn't matter if we're up here in Crescent City where it's fairly quiet," said Lt. j.g. Lee Titus. "This is something the Coast Guard requires of all commanding officers, to look at the threat levels."

Titus said he is unable to have the grounds patrolled on a regular basis with such a small crew stationed in the community.

"We have so few people, I can't have five people up all night and still be able to respond to calls," he said. "The fencing is just one option ... to meet any threats against personnel and the boat and against any infiltration."

Titus said he will ask the Coast Guard to fund the fence, assuming it is approved by the board tonight.

After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the 87-foot Dorado — which is armed with 50-caliber machine guns, M16 rifles, shotguns and handguns — was assigned to escort vessels in and out of San Francisco Bay.

The Coast Guard is no longer on that heightened alert status, and Titus said there is no immediate threat to the area. But, he said, all facilities must be prepared.

"Since the tragedy ... the Coast Guard has had to change the way they look at our operations and also the security of our assets and people," Titus wrote in his report to the board. "Coast Guard-wide, we have been asked to evaluate the effectiveness of our security and recommend changes to our present facilities and procedures."

Even before the attacks, there was evidence that Coast Guard personnel were stretched thin nationwide, according to a report by the Transportation Department's inspector general. It found that Coast Guard search-and-rescue stations lack crews and equipment, forcing some guardsmen to work 84-hour weeks and sail in vessels that do not undergo routine inspections.

The Coast Guard is responsible for law enforcement and rescues along the 95,000 miles of U.S. coastline. The port security operation embarked on after the terrorist attacks is the Guard's largest since World War II.