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Visit carried off without a problem

Over 100 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers assist

Visit-carried-off-without-a-problem

Air Force One approaches Toledo Express Airport as law enforcement, their vehicles, support vans, and limousines await the President.

The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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President Obama's visit went off without a hitch on Friday, thanks in large part to a coordinated effort involving well over 100 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers.

While the cost for that security hasn't been tabulated yet, it may not have been nearly as much as some people think because of the number of officers on duty at the time.

The Lucas County Sheriff's Office also drew heavily from volunteers -- the retired and prospective deputies who make up its auxiliary unit.

"There was not a penny of overtime spent for the sheriff's office for this detail that I'm aware of," said Lt. Don Atkinson, special projects director of the Lucas County Sheriff's Office. "Some guys were driving their own vehicles and paying their own gas."

Also, the U.S. Secret Service typically scours the sites of upcoming presidential visits days in advance. In this case, they were spotted in Toledo as early as a week ago.

"When the President travels, an advance team of Secret Service agents works with host city, state, and local law enforcement, as well as public-safety officials, to jointly implement the necessary security measures," according to a statement on the Secret Service's Web site.

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Employees at Fred's Pro Hardware in North Toledo said the Secret Service entered the store about five minutes before the President stopped there. They said they were given no prior knowledge of the visit.

Associate Matthew Wamsley said Secret Service agents checked employees and customers who were already inside the store and secured exits. One agent confiscated Mr. Wamsley's pocket knife, Mr. Wamsley said.

No one was allowed to leave or enter during Mr. Obama's visit, which lasted 10 to 15 minutes, Mr. Wamsley said. His knife was returned after Mr. Obama left.

As the President was leaving the hardware store and jogging across Stickney Avenue to a crowd of people lining the sidewalk on the other side, uniformed officers swept bystanders with wands as they waited to meet the President. Similarly, media members were checked with wands as they waited at the airport to see Mr. Obama debark Air Force One.

The trip also included an impromptu visit at Rudy's Hot Dog on Sylvania Avenue, where Mr. Obama ate with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), Mayor Mike Bell, and other local officials.

Rudy's co-owner Andy Dionyssiou said Secret Service officials called late Friday morning to ask whether the President could stop in for lunch. As Mr. Obama arrived, the area outside was guarded by Toledo Police, the Ohio Highway Patrol, and the Secret Service, which also had officers inside with the President. No customers were permitted to come or go from the restaurant while the President was there.

Of the four major local agencies involved in the visit -- the Secret Service, the Ohio Highway Patrol, the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, and the Toledo Police Department -- only the city police department appears likely to face an overtime bill.

The total won't be known until next week, at which time the city will see whether it can be reimbursed for all or part of it, according to Capt. Jim O'Bryant of the agency's personnel and public affairs division.

Toledo police had an estimated 80 to 100 officers assisting with security but attempted to keep costs down by having several on-duty administrative officers augment street patrols, Captain O'Bryant said.

Members of the SWAT team and other units on-duty at the time also helped, he said.

When a sitting U.S. President travels, nothing's taken for granted. But Friday's visit was about as easy as they come, Lieutenant Atkinson said.

After Air Force One landed at Toledo Express Airport shortly before noon, Mr. Obama waved to some well-wishers allowed onto the tarmac -- mostly friends and family members of people employed by the White House, the Secret Service, and the Air Force -- before leaving in his motorcade.

The route was from the Ohio Turnpike to I-75 to Rudy's, the plant, the hardware store, and back. Mr. Obama was escorted back to Air Force One for a flight that left at 3:15 p.m.

"This is a route we've used in the past," Lieutenant Atkinson said. "This was smooth as silk. It seemed to go off like clockwork."

He said the sheriff's office had 34 officers assisting Toledo police, the Ohio Highway Patrol, and the Secret Service with crowd control and barricades.

During the temporary shut-downs of I-75 and a portion of the Ohio Turnpike -- they were reopened briefly while the President was in the Jeep plant -- traffic was re-routed along major roads feeding I-75, such as Anthony Wayne Trail and I-280.

Many people complained how far back the barricades went up. Officials said that was done to keep traffic moving as much as possible by re-routing it onto other major roads. But traffic jams are one of the givens of a presidential visit.

"That is part of it," Captain O'Bryant said.

Security procedures also called for barricades to be set up far enough away from exit and entrance ramps "so there is not a direct line of sight" as the presidential motorcade traveled along I-75, Lieutenant Atkinson said.

Blade staff writers Sheena Harrison and Tyrel Linkhorn contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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