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thedrifter
04-16-07, 08:28 AM
April 16, 2007 - 12:00AM
Security extends beyond the gate

CHRISSY VICK / DAILY NEWS STAFF
DAILY NEWS STAFF
by chrissy vick

Camp Lejeune's military police have jurisdiction that reaches outside the confines of the base. That's nothing new.

But these days, they're enforcing it, as a photographer for The Daily News found out on Good Friday.

Longtime newspaper photographer Don Bryan was standing in the median of N.C. 24 on April 6 taking pictures of heavy eastbound traffic coming from Jacksonville as cars crossed the bridge spanning Northeast Creek. Bryan was positioned about halfway between the bridge and Camp Lejeune's main gate.

Just as he was finished taking photographs and turned to walk back to his car parked alongside the road, three military police cars surrounded him.

"They all converged on me very serious about investigating what I was doing," Bryan said. "They asked me who I was, my name, who I worked with and what I was shooting."

The MPs requested to drive him across the street to his car for safety reasons, where his identification was checked and his contact and personal details were written down, he said.

"I stayed cooperative and treated them with respect," Bryan said, adding that the MPs treated him the same way.

The MPs asked him to notify the base anytime he is taking pictures near it, something Bryan says he's never been asked to do in his 23 years with The Daily News.

"I did feel intimidated by their quick approach," Bryan said. "But they were sincere and were just doing their job."

Increased security aboard Camp Lejeune has been a topic of discussion and debate for the past two months. N.C. 24 is an area where the military shares jurisdiction with the Jacksonville Police Department.

Anything that borders military property is within federal jurisdiction, said Capt. Patricia Driggers of the Jacksonville Police Department. That includes parts of N.C. 24, U.S. 17 and other roads bordering Camp Lejeune.

"On N.C. 24, anything that borders military property is jurisdiction of the military," Driggers said.

Base spokesman 2nd Lt. Craig Thomas says it is all a part of the MP's job - to make sure the base is secure.

"It's just the initiative on the part of our MPs that if anything looks out of the ordinary to check it out and make sure it's safe, make sure the base is safe," Thomas said. "The MP saw something out of the ordinary - a man taking photos in the middle of the median, so he just wanted to stop and make sure everything was alright."

MPs are well-trained and know that certain situations could pose a security threat, he said.

"If they see one of those situations they're going to ask questions just to keep the area secure," Thomas said.

Base spokesman Sgt. Salju K. Thomas says photography of the base can pose a security threat.

"Camp Lejeune's military police work hard to ensure the security of this base through their constant vigilance," he said. "... While it was eventually made clear to the MP Bryan was not aiming his camera toward the base, photography of certain aspects of federal installations can present a potential security compromise."

The overpass leading to the base is under federal government jurisdiction, while the eastbound lanes of N.C. 24 and the area 100 feet south toward base property fall under state and federal jurisdiction, he said. All lands south of the 100-foot mark are solely under federal authority.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has an easement for part of N.C. 24 on land that is actually owned by the base, said DOT district engineer Robert Vause.

"I think our easement falls from fence line to fence line," he said. "The base is the underlying property owner under a portion of N.C. 24, though I'm not sure how much."

For any security issues in that area, MPs can stop civilians or military personnel to question them, Driggers said.

"They have rights on that whole part of the area," she said

While Jacksonville police handle most collisions along N.C. 24, MPs often investigate the collisions and make traffic stops involving military personnel.

With jurisdictions that often cross paths, the two law enforcement agencies have close working relationships, Driggers said.

"If we need assistance, we call the base and they provide the assistance we need," Driggers said. "And if they need help they call us and we provide the assistance they need."

The partnership is actually something that benefits the community, Thomas said.

"We've got a really unique working relationship with the Jacksonville police, and I think the community as a whole benefits," he said. "I know that the Jacksonville Police Department cares about this community just as much as we do and we enjoy working with them."

Contact Chrissy Vick at cvick@freedomenc.com or 353-1171, Ext. 239.

Ellie