THE MAGAZINE

Watching Over the Waterways

By Matthew Harwood

Focused Lens. A third program initiated by the USCG, called Focused Lens, uses community policing principles. Originally pioneered by Commander Hill within the Coast Guard District 11—which encompasses the Pacific Southwest—the program concentrates on finding the marinas and boat ramps that terrorists could use to launch attacks on critical infrastructure and soft targets. After determining a particular boat ramp or marina makes a good staging ground for a terrorist attack, the USCG plans on ramping up its presence around those waters through increased patrols and random boarding of small boats, mimicking a police officer walking his beat and establishing relationships in the neighborhood. Any boaters and residents who live around or frequent those potential high-risk launch sites will receive AWW training from the USCG Auxiliary to add another security layer of citizens on patrol, says Owens.

The program provides another way for the USCG to allocate scarce resources wisely. “Focused Lens helps Coast Guard Sector Commanders prioritize where threats may originate and helps them decide if and where to conduct patrols or [other] activity to bolster the security presence near select boat launch sites,” says Lieutenant Commander Michael Keane, division chief of maritime security and response at the USCG Headquarters Office of Counterterrorism and Defense Operations.

Focused Lens fits neatly into the post-9-11 landscape of intelligence-led policing that aims to detect and disrupt terrorist attacks before they can go operational. That’s critical because, as Hill notes, once a terrorist successfully hits the water with arms and explosives, it’s nearly impossible to stop an attack.

“If there is a vessel on the water with a bomb on it heading for a ship, they’re going to be successful,” Hill said at the Annual Maritime and Transportation Security Expo in Baltimore. “Even if we’re there, even if we’re escorting the ship, there’s a 99 percent chance that even if we’re shooting at that small boat with our machine guns, that they’re...going to be successful.”

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