Enhanced protection at LIMA
Uncer, a yellow Lab, has begun patrolling LIMA.

Photo provided

Enhanced protection at LIMA

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
12/31/2015


ISLIP TOWN—Last week, officials from the Suffolk County Police Department, Town of Islip, and the Transportation Security Administration joined together to discuss a new, enhanced explosive detection initiative at Long Island MacArthur Airport (LIMA). The plan, which involves advanced canine explosive detection measures, highlights the ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of passengers using the local airport.

While there have been no specific threats to the airport, law enforcement officials are taking additional precautionary steps in light of recent terrorist events around the world involving airports and airliners.

“Aviation has been a persistent target of terrorists,” said SCPD Deputy Commissioner Timothy Sini. “As terrorists continue to adapt [their tactics], law enforcement must adapt and anticipate attacks as well. We’re not going to take any chances, and we’re going to do everything we can to keep everyone safe, particularly during the holiday season.”

The department now has a new member of its staff named Uncer, a specialized yellow Labrador who can detect explosives by scent. On a random basis, Uncer is deployed into the airport to scan the area for any potential threats. Although MacArthur already utilizes dogs to pick up fumes, Uncer has a unique set of skills as a vapor wake canine, which are specially bred and socially raised to be effective at explosive detection, regardless of distracting environments. While traditional bomb-sniffing dogs identify placed or stationary explosives, vapor wake Labradors can detect mobile explosives up to 10 minutes after a person has left an area. They then work with a team to track and apprehend potential suspects.

“These dogs are amazing, and we’re really excited to have Uncer on board,” said Sini. “They don’t have to be on top of the object they’re sniffing to detect explosives, and they can detect them from quite a distance away.”

Sini noted that Uncer is the first vapor wake canine on the force and was purchased by the SCPD via grant money.

“These dogs are trained at birth and take quite a while to get into operation,” said Sini. “It’s an emerging new tool and is certainly something that other law enforcement agencies are recognizing as valuable.”

Airport Commissioner Robert Schaefer stated that canine detection is just one of various heightened security measures implemented at the facility.

“We’ve also increased the X-ray machines, our patrols with town law enforcement, and now do random checks on employees,” said Schaefer. “Our whole goal is to not be a soft target, and this is another deterrent we’ve put in place to make that happen.”