Navy employs different security tactic

Eager to use every means possible of protecting military targets from terrorist attack, the Navy is going door-to-door, asking Port Orchard residents with views of Sinclair Inlet to help keep an eye on Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

The program, which was tested in Everett soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, attempts to get ordinary citizens interested in military security and helps the Navy monitor activity around sensitive areas such as PSNS.

Naval Criminal Investigative Services is heading up the outreach effort, working in partnership with local police departments. NCIS is particularly targeting those with panoramic views of the inlet and the Port Orchard beachfront, because those residents would be in the best position to spot suspicious activity.

“We wanted to create the eyes and ears of the military beyond the fence line,” said Scott Jacobs, NCIS special agent in charge of the project. “There’s only so many special agents.

Jacobs said that, since Sept. 11, NCIS has gotten more than 100 phone calls from people reporting unusual activities or shady characters. Two of the calls revealed information which Jacobs said was “of interest” to the FBI, with whom the NCIS is currently working.

Many other calls helped out local law enforcement agencies by calling attention to other crimes, particularly drug-related ones, which might have normally slipped under officers’ radar.

“It’s paid huge dividends,” Jacobs said. “This is sort of our version of community policing.”

Nancy Brown was one of those visited by the NCIS a few weeks ago. Her house sits just above Bay Street east of Bethel Avenue and commands a broad view of the inlet, PSNS and the east half of downtown Port Orchard.

She said she’s always liked watching the activity around the Navy yard — the NCIS request only gives her a good reason to do so more often.

“We do have a bird’s-eye view,” she said. “We see the ships going in and out. We watch them all the time.”

Brown added that, from just watching what goes on, she frequently knows when Navy vessels are preparing to deploy long before her neighbors, who work at the yard, find out.

“So now we’re officially spies,” she joked.

Jacobs said he plans to send agents out to re-motivate those they’ve spoken to every month or so. Eventually, he said, the NCIS wants awareness to be automatic, so residents won’t have to remind themselves to keep an eye on PSNS. The Navy is especially anxious to have that automatic response in place before any ships return home, and security becomes even more of an issue.

“We find we get more response when we re-emphasize the issue over and over again,” he said. “The safety of our communities is paramount.”

Residents in Bremerton and Manchester can also expect a visit from special agents in the near future. Manchester overlooks the Navy’s refueling depot, which also might potentially be a terrorist target. Since the attacks, the Navy has increased security at the depot as well, adding remote sensors and other monitoring equipment.

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