City's security logistics taking shape

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The emerging G-20 summit security complex became increasingly evident throughout Pittsburgh yesterday, as local, state and federal agencies began preparing bases of operations ahead of next week's potential tumult.

From Downtown to the Strip, from the North Shore to the South Hills, preparations for 1,000 state troopers, perhaps thousands of out-of-town officers, and 2,000 National Guard troops began springing up.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools will play a key role, providing sites for special police teams, helicopter landings and possibly a mobile hospital.

The summit "is a good thing for the city," said city school spokeswoman Ebony Pugh. "We have these spaces available and we're glad to assist with the city's needs in accommodating the summit."

And the Pennsylvania National Guard confirmed its plans, even as its Beechview tent city spilled over into a religious retreat center.



"We're at the ready in the event that Pittsburgh police, the Secret Service or any agency needs help," said Lt. Col. Don Accamandocq, a spokesman for the 171st Air Refueling Wing.

He confirmed there will be 2,000 guardsmen on hand for the summit, with many helping Pittsburgh police officers enforce traffic restrictions in Downtown and near other summit venues.

Some National Guard troops will be held in reserve and won't be deployed unless there is a emergency.

The guardsmen will come from the 171st, based at Pittsburgh International Airport, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of Washington, Pa. Many were involved with providing security at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January, which, like the Sept. 24-25 summit, was a National Security Special Event.

All National Guard troops will be working alongside city police officers, Lt. Col. Accamando said. They will be wearing regular uniforms and moving through the city in troop transport vehicles and Humvees. The guardsmen will not be armed, although they will have protective gear, such as helmets.

They will be ready to handle a range of situations. For instance, Guard medical teams can mobilize to help with traffic accidents.

The federal government will bear the costs of the Guard's deployment.

Some troops will be based at the Hunt Armory in Shadyside. Others will stay at hotels.

The 128th FSB Pennsylvania Army National Guard facility on Crane Avenue in Beechview couldn't quite handle all of the tents the Guard wanted there. So its leadership asked for a little help from the neighboring Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality, a retreat center.

Susan Muto, executive director of the Epiphany Association, which runs the academy, said the Guard asked for 15 parking spaces at the academy, and for room for one large tent. "They have an overflow of civilians and reservists engaged in whatever they're doing for the G-20," Ms. Muto said, so in the interest of being a good neighbor, she ceded some space.

In recent days, National Guard helicopters have been flying over Pittsburgh to help commanders become familiar with the region's hilly topography, Lt. Col. Accamando said.

Some have apparently been using Oliver High School's football field, according to the school's neighbors.

Ms. Pugh confirmed that the school, in Marshall-Shadeland, is allowing military helicopters to use its football field.

The old Columbus Middle School Annex on Ridge Avenue in Allegheny West is now flanked with new 10-foot fencing topped with razor wire in back, and city and county public works crews yesterday placed rows of Jersey barriers in front.

Ms. Pugh said the annex, often known as Ridge Avenue School, will be a SWAT operations center. It has long been empty. She said the district retains ownership of the building, and won't have to pay for any costs of altering its grounds and interior.

The city Police Bureau did not respond to request for information on facilities plans.

Brashear High School's campus in Beechview will be used as an assembly area for visiting security personnel and potentially host a mobile hospital, Ms. Pugh said. The closed Greenway Middle School's campus, in Crafton Heights, will also be an assembly area, she said.

The district won't bear any costs, she said, except for the expense of repainting around 20 percent of the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Downtown, which will host a summit event.

Tomorrow, most of Pittsburgh's 900 police officers will being working 12-hour shifts until the end of the week.

City officials have said they hope to have at least 4,000 police officers on hand for the summit, although yesterday they would not confirm which out-of-town departments have committed to send officers or exactly how many will be here.

Efforts to house and equip them continued yesterday.

One company, which asked not to be named, has agreed to open its Downtown office tower to police who need to take a break from the streets.

The lot behind the city's fueling station and fleet repair garage yesterday received some of the more novel vehicles in law enforcement.

Sister companies Ibis Tek and Fleet Fitters LLC, Middlesex Township-based military and law enforcement equipment contractors, brought in 52 of their yet-to-be-released iForce Patrol Bikes -- bicycles with lights and sirens and frame geometry that allows them to maneuver in extremely tight spaces. They'll be on loan to the city and visiting officers during summit week.

"It ties in nicely with the whole green effort," said Chris Andrews, general manager of Ibis Tek.

Also on loan from the companies are a specially outfitted Polaris Ranger off-road vehicle, a command truck and top-of-the-line demo police cars.

The State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, in Chateau Woods Run, has readied its old, main visiting room for use as a booking center for what could be mass arrests.

Because that space can be accessed directly from the outside, its use as a booking center shouldn't cause disruption of internal prison functions, nor should any arrestees end up in contact with prison inmates.

"Once they're booked, they will be taken to the county jail," said Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sue McNaughton. Three department buses are already parked in back, ready to make trips.

The prison is suspending visits and deliveries for the two summit days, Ms. McNaughton said.

"There's the potential to be very busy at that time," she said.


Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at jsherman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1183. Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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