A federal air marshal field office at Phoenix Sky Harbor is closing its doors and that has one of its officials concerned.
Phoenix was selected as one of six cities across the country that will have field office closures, but is the largest city and airport on the list and is also a major hub for the world's largest airline after the merger of US Airways and American Airlines.
Chris Di Gerolamo, an 11-year veteran who has been based in Phoenix for seven years, said he's concerned about potential safety risks with no longer having an office at such a busy airport.
"Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the nation and Sky Harbor is the ninth largest airport in the nation," he said. "By far it will be the biggest city and airport to have a closure of a Federal Air Marshal office."
He said that adding to his concern is the infrastructure and population that surrounds the airport.
"Within minutes of Sky Harbor there is critical infrastructure, (such as) the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, Luke Air Force Base, 60,000 students at the Tempe campus of ASU, let alone the over 4.3 million people in Phoenix metropolitan area," he said. "There is plenty of reason to have federal air marshals based in Phoenix."
Di Gerolamo said undercover marshals are an added level of security at airports and even though air marshals will still routinely travel to Sky Harbor on passenger flights after the closures take effect, the protection is not the same as having them based in the Valley.
He also added that more than two dozen families will have to be relocated due to the closure, but could not reveal the actual number for security reasons.
"You're taking these law enforcement officers who chose to come to Arizona, at their own expense from all over the country, put down roots in Arizona and now you're telling them they have to leave," he said.
Di Gerolamo said he and other marshals are asking Federal and Arizona representatives to encourage the Transportation Safety Administration and Department of Homeland Security, which oversee the service, to reverse the decision to close the offices.
"We're asking our elected officials to look at this and to stand up and to tell the Department of Homeland Security that this is wrong; this is an ill-conceived notion," he said. "Arizona deserves 360-degrees protection."
The field office is scheduled to close in June 2015, Di Gerolamo said.
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