Monday, April 25, 2016

Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center Poorly Guarded

Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center is not being effectively guarded from trespassers: a few of whom are arsonists, more are vandals, some are looking for stuff to steal (including recyclable metals), many are there "to party," but most of them simply want to have fun exploring the deserted and deteriorating buildings. The Department of Veterans Affairs Police, combined with civilian security guards hired by the property developer/lease holder, are not providing adequate protection for the property. Not enough personnel are assigned.

Eye witnesses tell me that people often enter the VA grounds through holes cut in the fence that surrounds the property. Most of that fence line is the border between the VA and the county park next to it. A small portion of fence line runs behind homes next to the VA. Several individuals have spoken to me about being in the park and seeing people go through the fence. Published comments to articles about the Ft. Howard situation relate the same facts. Residents of the homes next to the fence say they see people go through a hole there. Most of the trespassers could easily have climbed over the fence.

Those VA Police had been completely taken away for some months, after the developer's lease was signed. Then they were posted there only on day shift to guard the medical clinic, personnel and patients, when the clinic was open.

After the second blaze, when Department of Veterans Affairs Police were put back on duty 24/7, a VA Police Officer told me, "We did over 50 lockups in the first month. Mostly young men in their early 20s - coming in to party."

The developer/lessee has sporadically provided civilian security personnel. A VA Cop told me those civilians usually go hide somewhere and sleep. Which is easy to do on that property.

There have been 7 fires at the Ft. Howard VAMC, most were arson.

There have been multiple copper wiring thefts from the property. Including at the VA Medical Clinic, when it was closed for the day after being open for regular daily hours. Antique fixtures like porch lights have been stripped away from the old buildings. Many valuable items have disappeared from there.

Protecting the Ft. Howard VAMC property from trespassers requires a combination of at least 3 police and security guards on duty at all times. At least one should legally be carrying a firearm. All staying awake during their shifts.

Doing that job effectively requires: two-way radios on the same frequency for all; powerful, handheld lights; thermal heat detectors that hunters use; motion detectors - some that activate bright lights and/or loud noise, some with a camera; night vision binoculars and possibly night vision goggles; lethal and non-lethal force weapons; cell phones with the right features may make the radios unnecessary, but no personal phones for security communications; golf cart type vehicles; trained K9 dogs; and large floodlights in some areas are a must.

For the second fire at Ft. Howard, which burned down a large, old world craftsmen style, house, residents across the water from there said they saw someone get out of a small boat and walk up to the house, then back to the boat, and then flames were observed.

Security guards and Veterans Affairs Police are usually posted at the entrance to the VA grounds. From there, security cannot see or hear trespassers coming through or over the fence along most of the fence line or landing on the substantial shoreline. On much of the property, there is overgrown greenery for trespassers to use to block other peoples' view of the trespassing.

If construction of the planned veterans community ever begins, security will need to be beefed up with more personnel on duty 24/7. Globally, there is often theft of construction site tools, equipment - including bulldozers, cement mixers, etc.,  supplies and building materials.

The trespassing and police/security personnel situation is common knowledge in the community of people who care about Ft. Howard. It is also well known to people - near and far - who enjoy trespassing there; most of whom are benign, casual visitors seeking harmless adventure, others are there to steal and/or destroy property.

Arson, other vandalism, and theft are a massive, destructive presence. It can grow horrendously, as construction work is being done.

I want to live there among other vets and their loved ones. The painful fact is, without solid security, the proposed development of the Ft. Howard VAMC property will never be completed.

Google satellite images show how large and overgrown Ft. Howard is:,-76.4447086,1217m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xdf4ca5ebe9797ca0

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