NEWS

Security suppliers woo Athens

A photo of elusive suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man on the face of the earth after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, was in a prominent position at an exhibition booth. On the right was a laptop computer displaying another image of the exiled Saudi, while both provided information on his physical characteristics. The booth, operated by one of the two dozen British companies that came to Athens yesterday to showcase the latest products that the market has to offer in security equipment and services, is indicative of the climate after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon two weeks ago. Certainly, it would be impossible for any security organization to do anything about events like the ones in New York, remarked Chris Poole of SDS Group Limited, a company specializing in security, during an interview with Kathimerini English Edition. There is no equipment that can stop such acts. There are, of course, techniques and procedures that can help organizations react to something like that. But again, that involves training, understanding of what is happening to that organization, to that building, and making sure they can save the lives of their employees. I am talking here about evacuation techniques. The exhibition, organized by the British Embassy and the Association of Police and Public Security Suppliers in Britain, coincided with the visit to Athens by the president and coordinating team of the International Olympic Committee, as Greece gears up for a massive security operation for the Summer Olympics of 2004. Most of the 26 companies that came to the capital yesterday to showcase their products are no strangers to the Greek military or state security agencies. Some of them have been here in previous years, and they have already supplied several of these bodies with equipment and services. Indeed, we have been doing business in Greece with state bodies such as the Ministry of Defense, and one or two organizations which I am not allowed to name, Poole noted. His company sells mines and metal detectors, explosive and drug detection equipment, as well as providing training in high-risk operations. But that is only in detection. We can also advise on what you actually do when you find something like a bomb, how to deactivate it, he said. With security concerns over international events such as the Olympic Games having mounted in recent weeks – officials reportedly are even considering canceling the Winter Games to be held in Salt Lake City – Athens will certainly be looking for ways to upgrade its security equipment and techniques. I think that with any major event, whether it is sporting or otherwise, security has to take a high priority, Poole said. The events in New York during the last few weeks have brought airport security very much ahead. So, companies like ours which are specialists in giving advice on high-risk search should be able to contribute in the early stages to something like the Olympics, just so that people can have an understanding of what we offer. But, although security ought to be the top priority at events like the Olympic Games, Poole cautioned against overreaction. My view is that it would be a shame if security overrode the importance of what the Olympics are here to achieve, to create links between nations in a friendly, peaceful atmosphere, he said. But on the other hand, I am very aware of the need now to make sure that people don’t get killed or injured. And of course we have to protect the bomb disposal staff. So, we need to do that but also keep that balance, not to go over the top, not overreact, and have the proper people to do the job without being intrusive. Security technology The screen of a laptop computer displays the location of an undercover police unit on a map. The data, explains a company’s senior engineer, is in real time, as it takes only four seconds after the computer dials in on the tracking device before it appears on the screen. The device can keep track of cars for over two weeks, while another listening device placed in the car can provide real-time audio. One person wearing these boots stepped on a land mine and he only broke a tiny bone in his foot, remarked a company director in a nearby booth. The company specializes in developing blast protection technology, and on display were special boots used for mine-clearing operations, and material used for blast protection of buildings and vehicles. The companies that came to Athens this year covered an array of products and services, from blast protection technology to cutting-edge tracking, audio and visual technology for covert operations, surveillance equipment, shooting targets, airport security systems, as well as combat gear and security forces training. These companies are designated suppliers for the British police and public security organizations in Britain and abroad, while a number of them also supply military forces and train security units around the world.