Allegheny County police counting on remote-operated river vehicle
By Bobby Kerlik
Published: Monday, May 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Allegheny County police received a $131,000 federal grant to purchase a remote-operated river vehicle that can go underwater and search for items ranging from evidence in crimes to bombs.
The remote-controlled device is part of a larger river security plan developed by the Port of Pittsburgh to secure the region's waterways, officials said.
“We do have calls that go into rivers and bodies of water,” county police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said. “In the past, we've had to dive into the river for parts of the crime.”
Moffatt said the device could be used to search for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, underwater.
“I don't want to scare people, but it's a precaution,” Moffatt said.
Richard Linn, operations chief of River Rescue for Pittsburgh EMS, said the city got a similar device in the fall.
Linn said the ROV — as his crew refers to it — weighs about 20 pounds and is cube-shaped, about 18 inches across. The remote control is about the size of an Xbox controller.
“You can look for things while keeping the divers safe. You can search the bottom of the river for explosive or hazardous material, that way the diver is safe,” Linn said. “You can search the hulls of boats for mines.”
He said the city has not had to use the device in an emergency situation.
Port of Pittsburgh Assistant Executive Director Mary Ann Bucci said Homeland Security rules prevent her from talking specifically about river security plans, but said a regional security concept was developed in 2007.
The Port of Pittsburgh region stretches into West Virginia and southeastern Ohio, and nearly 33 million tons of freight move through the port's rivers annually. She said the port has doled out 75 grants over the past five years to municipalities and police agencies, including the county police.
“With all of our projects, we try to mitigate risk in the district,” Bucci said. “I think in any region, you have risk factors. Look along the rivers — you have PNC Park, Heinz Field, locks and dams, barges carrying commodities.”
The Coast Guard meets monthly with city and county officials to discuss public safety, weather and industry issues and their potential effects on the rivers, said Lt. Alanna McGovern. Any flammable or explosive material is reported to the Coast Guard.
Mike Monahan, president of Campbell Transportation Co. in Houston, Washington County, said his company must follow security protocols when its barges carry dangerous cargo.
“Depending on the type of cargoes, we have to report to the Coast Guard at different intervals (on the river) so they know where we are,” Monahan said. “We also have vessel ID cards where all employees are screened by the federal government.”
Monahan said dangerous cargo includes ammonium nitrate, used in fertilizer, and benzine, a petroleum product.
“We communicate it to the Coast Guard,” Monahan said. “You don't hang a sign on the barge saying, ‘This is ammonium nitrate.' Obviously, with all the bridges in Pittsburgh, additional security can't be a bad thing.”
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Likely $2.3B influx puts PennDOT big-ticket road projects in play
- Hill District nonprofit’s finances are taking another dive
- Natural history museum in the red
- Baldwin-Whitehall board hits ‘magical line of dissatisfaction’
- Late Thanksgiving diminishes jingle of Salvation Army kettles
- Pa. child abuse statutes faulted as too narrow
- Man shot by Pennsylvania state police at Pittsburgh International Airport was key witness in Massachusetts murder trial
- Newsmaker: Andrew Witchger
- Pennsylvania parents of children with epilepsy pin hopes on pot bill