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Our Galveston Wharves Police and Security Department does a remarkable job of handling a complex operation. Headed by Security Director Kenneth Campbell, our staff of 26 is responsible for public safety and security for a busy, 840-acre port facility with 840 cargo vessel calls, 268 cruise ship calls, thousands of workers and almost 2 million cruise passenger movements in 2018.
Campbell, who has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, along with Chief Kenneth Brown who has over 22 years of law enforcement experience, oversees a 24/7 operation with three shifts of law enforcement officers and dispatchers, a detective and a facilities security officer. They’re responsible for enforcing state and federal laws and ensuring port security.
In 2018, they reported 2,148 incidents, ranging from parking violations, contraband offenses and public intoxication to assaults and thefts. For 2019, the total is already at 4,169 due to higher numbers of vessel calls and cruise sailings, as well as our enhanced reporting requirements.
Some of their critical challenges and primary duties include mitigating security breaches and industrial accidents.
The Guest Relations Business
By far, ensuring public safety at North America’s fourth busiest cruise port is the task that keeps our officers most busy. Each week, thousands of passengers pass through security as they board and disembark cruise ships.
Many of the laws that apply to air travel apply to cruise travel. We want to remind passengers that traveling with marijuana, ammunition or firearms, even with a concealed carry license, is not allowed. In 2018 our officers dealt with approximately 756 crimes and incidents related to such contraband.
We want every cruise passenger to have a great experience as they travel through the port and encourage them to be aware of and follow the law.
Tightening Port Security
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, new maritime security laws were put in place for all U.S. ports to better identify and deter threats. Ports were required to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop security plans that include passenger, vehicle and baggage screening procedures; security patrols; restricted areas; personnel identification procedures; access control measures; and surveillance equipment.
Outside of the port’s cruise terminals and other public areas, our Security Department maintains and monitors secured areas that require federal clearance for access. Port police control these secured areas and monitor with security cameras.
The port continues to expand and improve its security system. In 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the port a $1 million grant to expand its fiber infrastructure and video surveillance systems, support cyber security and maintain its systems.
Recently, we also received a FEMA grant to equip all of our officers which body-worn cameras, which is now a law enforcement industry standard, to record interactions between officers and the public.
A Public Safety & Security Network
We closely coordinate with a number of local, state and federal agencies. These include the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Galveston County Sheriff’s Department and, of course, city of Galveston police, fire and emergency medical services.
While we deal with many of the crime prevention and law enforcement issues that you find in any city, our officers receive specialized training to respond to situations unique to ports.
I’m proud of the work these unsung heroes do to keep our port, its thousands of workers and its millions of guests safe and secure.