Thursday, February 16, 2011
Officials vouch for Tracy airport's security
By Denise Ellen Rizzo
The Tracy (CA) Press
Pilots and officials at Tracy Municipal Airport are in agreement that security at the facility is fine, following reports of a Tracy man stealing a plane near Fresno last week.
Raymond Romero Pirro, 52, allegedly stole a Cessna 172 from Buchanan Field Airport around Feb. 5 and crashed it a mile outside of Fresno on Feb. 7.
Tracy airport, although not guard-patrolled, is believed secure with the help of staff and facility users, officials said. By using a program similar to the residential Neighborhood Watch, airport users have become the security watchdogs of the facility.
“People out there have a strong sense of security,” Police Capt. John Espinoza said. “We don’t know who does and doesn’t belong on the airport, but people out there know everybody. They will call us with anything suspicious.”
Espinoza said it’s not the first time he has heard of someone taking a plane for a joyride, but he said it does raise a concern about what they would do with it. He said law enforcement and other city staff conduct tabletop emergency preparedness exercises for different scenarios, including a plane crashing in city limits.
“You can’t stop them (in the air), but you can deal with the aftermath,” he said.
Pilots who utilize the airport said they feel safe for themselves and their aircraft.
“It’s locked up pretty tight,” Tracy Airport Association Vice President Dave Anderson said. “We drive through on our way out and make sure the gates are locked and (that there’s) no suspicious activity. The tenants keep it fairly self-policed, and the police department is pretty responsive.”
But pilot Gary Harding said he wished there were people out there 24-hours a day.
“We all know the way the economy is going, so I wouldn’t mind having camera surveillance,” he said. “It’s cheap. I think it would be a great idea. Nobody has taken the chance yet (to steal a plane). Everything is fine right now.”