Filtering by Tag: Homeland Security
El Granada residents should beware of inappropriate use of "Homeland Security" video surveillance by Harbormaster Scott Grindy.
Friday, May 22, 2009 at 3:41pm
EVERETT, Wash. —
When golf balls began pelting the Port of Everett's shipping terminal, security officers trained their anti-terrorism cameras on the nearby hillside neighbors, hoping to catch the mystery duffers.
But after residents complained of being spied on, port officials turned the surveillance cameras around. Nevertheless, the barrage of balls has ended.
"In hindsight, we realize the golf balls are a public safety issue, not a threat to the terminals in terms of somebody breaking in," port security director Scott Grindy told The Herald of Everett. "Aiming at the hillside probably wasn't an appropriate use."
Police reports were filed and the video cameras were trained on Rucker Hill after dozens of golf balls landed on the port property in recent weeks, which Grindy said endangered workers and equipment.
The cameras, obtained with some of the more than $2.3 million in federal Homeland Security money for the port, never spotted any balls being hit, and the effort will not be resumed, Grindy told The Associated Press on Friday.
"We've decided to keep our cameras on our perimeter and security fence," he said.
Residents who learned about the surveillance from an article published by The Herald newspaper on May 16 were upset they were being watched.
"If they have the ability to tape my house, there should be a written policy to determine who can see these tapes and how they are used," Dave Miller, whose bedroom window faces the port, told the Everett paper.
Charlene Rawson, chairwoman of the Port Gardner Neighborhood Association, which includes Rucker Hill and the port's terminals, arranged a meeting with port Executive Director John Mohr.
"We had a nice conversation about it," said Rawson, who initially said she believed the port's actions violated people's privacy. "The port said they don't have the cameras pointed at any particular house."
There's no way for the public to determine exactly what the cameras recorded. Port officials said they cannot share video footage because of Homeland Security rules, not can they disclose the location of cameras or answer whether they can pan or zoom.
Grindy said port officials are now working on a surveillance policy.
The only reported damage from the wayward balls was a broken window in a vacant pickup truck two weeks ago. But Grindy said near misses were reported by crews on Amtrak passenger trains, Sounder commuter rail and Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains.
Golfers apparently were practicing at the top of the hill in an area where the port terminals, railroad tracks and a public footpath cannot be seen, he said.
"I think the whole issue is that an avid golfer is not realizing that there's all this stuff below," he said.
FoxNews.com published this article about Harbormaster Scott Grindy's overreaction to golf balls.
May 16, 2009 - Associated Press
EVERETT, Wash. – Golf balls are bombarding the Port of Everett and anti-terrorism cameras are being trained on a residential neighborhood to hunt down the source.
Port officials believe someone on Rucker Hill is whacking golf balls down the hill onto port property, endangering dozens of workers and millions of dollars worth of equipment and cargo.
"We're trying to use any means possible to stop it, aside from posting somebody in the field of fire all day and night," said Ed Madura, a port security official.
The port says the flying golf balls constitute a threat to personal safety. Pointing video surveillance cameras toward the likely source is an appropriate use of the equipment, port officials say.
In the eyes of at least one resident in the Rucker Hill neighborhood southwest of downtown, swiveling the cameras from the fence line to the neighborhood is an invasion of privacy.
"Hitting golf balls is a problem, but if they turn their cameras up on the neighborhood and spy on us, that's a bigger problem," said David Mascarenas, a neighborhood watchdog who has for years fought the port to improve the community's access to public land.
The cameras were paid for, along with fencing and other security equipment, with $2.3 million in grants from the Department of Homeland Security following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Before the attacks, the Everett port had open terminals and only minimal security. People who live in the surrounding neighborhoods often would walk down and drop crab pots off piers that are now blocked by tall cyclone fences topped with razor wire.
Golf balls have been raining on the port's Pacific Terminal for several months. However, a police report wasn't filed until this week when 18 golf balls over the span of two days were found near stacks of shipping containers. One ball even bounced into a piece of equipment waiting to be shipped to Alaska.
"It's been going on for a while, but it's been getting a lot worse the last couple of days," port spokeswoman Lisa Lefeber said.
Dock superintendent Bob Porter has been shagging balls from the Rucker Hill golfer for months. He keeps a box of them in his office near Pier 1.
"We have to put a stop to it," Porter said.
No injuries have been reported, although an errant golf ball is believed to have broken the driver's-side window of a longshoreman's pickup truck, which was parked in a secure area.
Lefeber said as many as 100 people may be working at the port on any given day. And while most activity happens during the day, people work at the port all hours.
John Nostrom lives near a grassy overlook on Warren Avenue. On two instances, in recent years, he has seen young men pull up to the spot, haul out their drivers, then tee off. The spot is a little more than 200 yards from the place where balls are being found.
"They don't hang out too long," he said.
A good golfer could drive a ball at speeds of up to 165 mph, said Rex Fullerton, general manager at Legion Memorial Golf Course in north Everett.
At that speed, golf balls can seriously injure someone.
"It's obviously a dangerous thing for somebody to just hit a golf ball into an area where it flies over people," Fullerton said. "Of course, we'd encourage them to hit golf balls at our golf course."
If someone is caught, any criminal charges that might be filed would depend on the circumstances, said Sgt. Robert Goetz with the Everett Police Department.
It isn't clear who is driving golf balls onto port land or why. Is it someone practicing their chip shot or a person with a chip on their shoulder?
Steve Ritchie, a dispatcher with The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 32, said he wouldn't be surprised if it was all a malicious act by a disgruntled Rucker Hill resident.
The neighborhood, named for the prominent Rucker family, which built a hilltop mansion there in the early 1900s, boasts some of the city's best views of Port Gardner, the Olympic Mountains and Cascade Range.
There have long been tensions between the neighborhood and the port over noise from container ships that are sometimes unloaded in the middle of the night, glare from floodlights and exhaust from idling vessels.
"There's a lot of people out on Rucker Hill that want the longshoremen more or less shut down," Ritchie said.
Owen Lei / KING 5 News - August 15, 2009
Link to VIDEO
EVERETT, Wash. - Rucker Hill gives you one of the oldest and most scenic views of the Everett waterfront, but it's not a personal driving range, said officials from the Port of Everett.
The port has filed a police report against whoever is hitting golf balls -- 30 to 50 of them over the past few months, almost 20 in the past two days alone - down towards shipping containers below.
So far, no one has been injured, said post communications administrator Lisa Lefeber, but a golf ball did damage one longshoreman's truck.
Neighbors we spoke with say they don't know who the mystery golfer is, but what he or she is doing is not a smart idea.
"We have disagreements with the port," said homeowner David Mascarenas. "But we would never do that, to injure anybody, particularly any of our longshoremen."
"A golf ball flying that far and hitting somebody down at the port would certainly be a deadly affair," said neighbor Win Miller. "And something needs to be done."
The problem is, these homeowners don't like what's being done either.
Port security is invoking a privilege granted originally for anti-terrorist reasons after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, said Lefeber. When faced with a potential threat, they can point the port's normally-fixed surveillance cameras to look for the source of the threat. In this case, that means up towards the homes.
"They don't have the right to spy on us, they don't have the right to do any of that without telling us," said Mascarenas, who added that the port has since informed them of their intentions. " Giving up my rights for a bunch of containers? It's not right."
Port officials say they're only moving the cameras after a golf ball incident happens, and after 24 hours, they're repositioning the cameras to point back towards the terminal. They add that they understand the residents' concerns, and that they have no plans to do anything with archived footage that is irrelevant to the case.
Everett police say they are investigating the incidents. Depending on the severity of the damage, charges could range from Malicious Mischief to Reckless Endangerment to Assault, though nothing that severe has happened yet, said Sergeant Robert Goetz.
Adds Mascarenas: "Hey whoever's doing it, please stop! Go out to a driving range somewhere."