Palm Beach County Courthouses Called Safe, Despite Security Breaches

Integrity checks saw undercover tester able to get 9mm handgun into courthouses


A program known by the acronym TIPS -- Threat Image Protections Systems -- superimposes images of bombs, bomb parts, guns and other dangerous items as baggage passes through an X-ray machine. If screeners successfully identify the item, a message appears on the computer screen congratulating them for doing so. If they miss it, they are notified of that as well.

"Right now, explosives are the greatest threat to aviation," White said. "Improvised explosive devices and their components are regularly superimposed. It keeps our screeners sharp."

The TSA would not release information about specific security failures at the airport.

"We don't want our enemies to know if we have a specific issue with a specific bomb or whatever," White said.

At the Port of Palm Beach, officials also keep data about security procedures close to the vest. Other than saying "risk and vulnerability assessments" take place, security director Ken Hern declined to elaborate. Riviera Beach police, port security, the Sheriff's Office marine unit and contracted security guards protect the port. Federal law requires the U.S. Coast Guard be notified whenever there's a security breach, Hern said.

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducts annual reviews at the ports, and last year's report to the governor identified the Port of Palm Beach as one of the most secure seaports in Florida," Hern said.

With 256,000 containers passing through the Port of Palm Beach each year, it's the fourth busiest of Florida's 14 seaports, behind Miami, Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, according to Hern. Imports and exports from the port include oil, sugar and molasses.

"The only thing I've got breaching my security is a 3-month-old puppy I've been trying to catch for the past three days," Hern joked.

Missy Stoddard can be reached at mstoddard@sun-sentrinel.com or 561-228-5505.

<<South Florida Sun-Sentinel (KRT) -- 07/11/06>>