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ISU to take on venue security this month

Canadian Forces personnel moving into camps this week

The Olympic Integrated Security Unit (ISU) will commence its operations by the end of the month, a spokesman told Pique Tuesday.

Staff Sgt. Mike Cote, a spokesman for the agency that's coordinating police, military and security efforts during the 2010 Games, said all venues should be turned over to ISU by the end of January.

"As far as operations themselves, nothing has started yet," he said. "You'll be starting to see gradually, by the end of the month, we should be fully operational in terms of security operations that have started in Whistler.

"Within the next two weeks you'll start seeing a little bit more activity, perimeters will be set, venues will be swept, access points will be established."

Once venues are turned over to VANOC, security forces are then given the go-ahead to sweep them, set out a security perimeter and install equipment such as CCTV cameras, which Cote maintains will point inwards towards venues and be removed after the Games.

"Once VANOC has possession of the venue, we are then authorized to move in," he said. "We set out a security perimeter. Once the perimeter is set we have to sweep that, everything within that perimeter, making sure that things are secured. Once that's done, we control access."

Should the public stray too close to a secured venue, Cote said they'll be approached politely and asked to go another way - but it should be fairly obvious if they come too close.

"It's not like they can go out and take a walk and mistakenly cross an imaginary line," he said. "If people approach a secure area, they'll be told very nicely that, ladies and gentlemen, we apologize, this is a secure area, unfortunately you're not allowed access and hopefully they'll go on their way.

The RCMP will be the primary agency responsible for security during the Games but they'll be getting back up from the Canadian Forces, who've taken up residence in various camps throughout the corridor. Previous estimates had up to 1,800 Canadian Forces personnel taking up residence between North Vancouver and Pemberton.

The Forces have set up headquarters for army personnel in the Callaghan-Cheakamus area; a camp near the rock quarry next to the athletes' village; a platoon house at Madeley Creek quarry; and a base at the Canadian Snowmobile Adventures station in the Callaghan Valley.

Beyond that Forces will help set up a three-tiered security zone around each of the venues. The Controlled Access Zone (CAZ) will be the area in the venue that no one can enter without a pass.

The Outer Controlled Access Zone (OCAZ) also has tight security, while the Surveillance Zone (SZ) will constitute a wider area around venues that Canadian Forces will patrol.

In the case of Whistler Olympic Park, that will include backcountry areas in the Callaghan Valley that are often used by snowmobilers and skiers. Forces personnel will be found patrolling those areas to ensure people are aware of where they can travel and so they don't get too close to venues.

They may be found travelling through the hills on snowmobiles and Arctic toboggans with rifles hanging off their shoulders. They will approach anyone who's strayed too close to a venue and notify them that they've entered a security zone.

Forces are expected to escort people out of those areas in vehicles such as a BV-206, normally used in the Swedish army for transporting soldiers through difficult terrain and extreme weather.

Major Dan Thomas, another spokesman for ISU, said Forces are moving into the camps this week and that "advance parties have already moved in."

"They're getting used to their equipment, communications and so on," he said. "(It's) a lot of work, a shaking out process and then some familiarization with the area will be in order because they haven't all been there yet.

"We'll continue to try to observe a low profile, not necessarily invisible, but we'll maintain a discretely low profile. If any locals encounter our troops, hopefully they'll make them feel welcome on the West Coast."