LANL ramps up after-hours vehicle security

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By The Staff

Despite concerns expressed by some local businesses regarding its potential impact on efforts to bolster tourism, Los Alamos National Laboratory is taking further steps to ratchet up security.

Beginning Monday, all vehicles entering the LANL Vehicle Access Portal at East Jemez Road must use center lane number 4 between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. weekdays and around the clock on weekends. All other lanes will be closed during LANL’s non-work hours.

During these times, drivers and bicyclists must stop at the center lane guard post and proceed only upon verbal or hand-signal direction from a LANL protective force officer. Orange traffic safety cones will be used to funnel vehicle traffic into the center lane. All drivers are reminded that the speed limit approaching the Vehicle Access Portal is 15 miles per hour.

“This change implements a more effective vehicle screening and control process,” said Jack Killeen, LANL’s Physical Security Division leader, noting that LANL recently implemented other security measures as a result of recommendations made during a recent review of laboratory protective measures by a joint Department of Defense and Department of Energy security assessment.

When asked if that assessment would be open to the public, Killeen said, “It’s a classified report.”

Those added measures include an increase in random inspections of all vehicles transiting the laboratory, to include West and East Jemez roads and roadways leading to Technical Area 3.

Killeen said these actions are being taken not because of a specific threat.

“There is no change to the threat level,” Killeen said.

Lab employees headed to work are reminded that certain prohibited articles are not allowed on laboratory property, even in personal vehicles. Those items include nongovernment-owned firearms, other dangerous weapons and explosives, alcoholic beverages and illegal substances. Employees in possession of prohibited articles may be required to return home to remove those items from their vehicle before being allowed to return to work.

“We’re doing our best to meet our security objectives while minimizing impacts on local businesses and tourists,” said Killeen.

Georgia Strickfaden, of Buffalo Tours, attended an informational meeting last February, and she questioned how visitors to Los Alamos would be notified that they could be subject to the random searches.

Eric Fairfield is with the fledgling Los Alamos Entrepreneurs Networks group. He took issue with the effect the searches may have on local businesses.

“Please don’t drive us out of town,” he said during the meeting.

Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy also attended the meeting. He said random searches are a common occurrence on government property throughout the country.

“I think a single small event would have a much more drastic effect on the community than any number of vehicles checked,” he said.

Torpy acknowledged the need to balance the needs of the community with that of the lab.

“We need to protect the lab as much for the community’s well-being as much as the lab’s well-being,” he said.

Killeen said that if somebody is caught with a prohibited item, the Los Alamos Police Department would be called in.

“I would say if that happens three or four times a month, that would be a lot,” Killeen said.

Killeen said there already is a checkpoint heading eastbound on Jemez Road.

“One of the recommendations that DOE and DOD made was that we tighten up the portal heading west,” Killeen said. “These measures are a result of that. It’s good we had an independent team see how we operate and it was good they made some recommendations.”

Killeen said he did not have any traffic numbers at non-peak hours.

“But I am pretty sure there will not be any traffic jams,” he said.