Israel officials at two-day U.S. security session
By FRANK ELTMAN
HAUPPAGUE, N.Y. -- Americans have not experienced terrorism to such a degree that they are willing to have shopping malls and other public areas protected by metal detectors and armed security patrols, an Israeli security expert said Tuesday.
"You're not ready yet," Gideon Avrami, a retired colonel in the Israeli military who now heads security at the Jerusalem Mall, told reporters at the start of a two-day meeting on terrorism prevention and response. "Once something happens, and I pray to God it will not, then you will be ready."
Avrami and other Israeli security experts are offering instruction on terrorism issues to about 400 law officers at the conference. Held under tight security at a Long Island hotel, the conference offered topics including dealing with the terrorist threat at malls and other potential targets, suicide bombers and counterterrorism measures.
Participants include Brig. Gen. Simon Perry of the Israeli national police, who currently serves as attache and liaison officer to the U.S. and Canada for the Israeli police and Ministry of Public Security.
He agreed with his colleague that the United States does not yet need to implement all of the security measures currently being used in his country.
"I don't think it would be wise for you to implement the steps we are using in Israel," he said. "I don't think you are in the same situation. We don't want to create a panic. We don't want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy here."
Perry cautioned, though, that "it would be wise" for law enforcement to be ready should things change.
"You won't have to start inventing situations from the beginning," he advised. "You will have contingencies; you will be able not to waste time that we wasted, unfortunately, trying to figure this new phenomena and how to deal with it."
The conference is the sixth in a series of meetings sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, a Washington-based nonprofit organization involved in security issues for both the United States and Israel.
"Israeli law enforcement is the undisputed leader in these areas," said Mark Broxmeyer, chairman of the institute and a Long Island real estate developer. He said the two-day meeting is being attended by police officers from Long Island, New York City, Boston, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and Ohio.
Among the local attendees were three Suffolk County officials: County Executive Steve Levy, Police Commissioner Richard Dormer and District Attorney Thomas Spota.
The sessions were not open to the media, although officials described some of the content at a news conference. Security for the event was so tight that police officers were posted at the entrances to the hotel's parking lot.
"It's very clear to me from just the little bit that we heard ... that a fact once thought improbable is now a certainty: That there is going to be a terrorist attack somewhere in the United States," Spota told reporters.
"When? We don't know. Where? We don't know. And that's why this conference is so important to all of us. In two hours ... it was frightening what we saw."
Avrami said he visited the Smith Haven Mall in Nesconset on Monday and found the security situation vastly different from his facility in Jerusalem.
In Israel, the mall "looks like an entrance to an international airport," he said, noting there are security checks, metal detectors and armed patrol officers, as well as plainclothes officers.
While the Long Island mall had no metal detectors, Avrami did give the local police high marks for at least one tactic _ a patrol car parked at the entrance.
"If I would have been a terrorist, I would have had a second thought about whether to come in," Avrami said. "Small tactics make a big difference."
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