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$30M Effort Begun To Keep Terrorists From Smuggling Radioactive Material Into Southland Ports

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — More than half a dozen agencies — local and federal — are teaming up in an effort to thwart terrorists from bringing radioactive materials through the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach.

CBS2′s Dave Lopez says Operation Maritime Chokehold is a $30 million program made possible through a grant from Homeland Security.

Lopez reported the multi-agency task force is comprised of the Los Angeles Police Department, Long Beach Police Department, LA County Sheriff’s, LA County Fire, US Coast Guard, FBI, “you name it, they’re there.”

“These assets and personnel will be conduction radiation screening on all boats and ships under 300 tons entering the Long Beach and Los Angeles Ports,” said Long Beach Police Dept. Chief Jim McDonnell.

Lopez said the task force put on display Friday all the top equipment they will employ to detect radioactive materials.

“Any indication of any radiation source, whether it is legal or not — because you never know until you get into it and determine whether or not it’s something illegal, illicit type of radiological or nuclear source,” said Mike Hillman, Assistant Chief of the LA Port Police.

Lopez asked Hillman if Operation Chokehold was still a precaution from the fallout from the attacks of 9/11.

“You could construe it that way,” Hillman said, “I think since 9/11, the world has changed and there are a variety of security measures we are putting into place.”

The Port of Los Angeles is a vast area to cover, reports Lopez — four ways in, four ways out.

But with the grant money and all agencies working in concert, they can cover all four areas at the same time, if necessary.

“If you have a high energy source that’s significant enough to make an impact on the Port complex itself, it will be detectable from a distance away, no matter the level of shielding, or trying to hide or conceal it from us. We’ll be able to detect it,” said Officer Mike Barz with the LAPD HazMat Team.

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