Phoenix Metro Praise for Security Efforts

The Phoenix metropolitan area is ahead of its peers and is often held up as an example of regional cooperation when it comes to homeland security.

That was part of the message Valley mayors and local officials heard from national security experts who made a stop in Phoenix on Thursday to give a homeland security training seminar.

Their visit in Phoenix is the third stop in a cross-country education program.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said the message should make Valley residents proud. "Keep being vigilant, but know that our public safety workers are watching out for us," he said.

Mayors and representatives from 15 Valley municipalities, including Cave Creek, Gilbert, Litchfield Park, Tempe and Youngtown, attended.

"The Phoenix area and the state of Arizona is looked at frequently for the programs that they have for homeland security, as well as dealing for all emergencies," said Glen Woodbury, associate director of the Executive Education Program, a seminar offered by the Naval Postgraduate School and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

He attributes the reputation to the cooperation he sees here across all levels of government. "We are working together," Gordon said. "There aren't artificial barriers between our communities. Our agencies recognize that terrorists aren't going to respect jurisdictional boundaries."

Other reasons experts lauded the Valley:

* Arizona was among the first states to take a regional approach to homeland security by establishing five regional advisory councils, each made up of local government and business leaders responsible for defining each region's security needs.

* Public safety officials opened an Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, a 61,000-square-foot building that houses the Joint Terrorism Task Force that includes the FBI and 21 other agencies and a 15-agency law-enforcement team that works on terrorism-related crimes.

* Phoenix police and firefighters recently unveiled a $4.8 million helicopter that can be used during emergency situations across the Valley.

"(These) are smart practices," Woodbury said. "There are elements ... that can be either modified or adapted to help improve homeland security in other locations."

He said the seminar aims to spur "provocative dialogue" among officials about what they might build upon or work to improve.

"Things aren't going to be perfect, and we're always going to be susceptible to the people who don't agree with our policies and politics," Youngtown Mayor Bryan Hackbarth said. "But what (this seminar) does is create a chance for us to work on our teamwork."