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Officials: Tight security ready for Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach

Drones, bomb-sniffing dogs and extra security cameras are among measures taken by authorities to protect the thousands expected to attend the Memorial Day weekend event.

State park police Officer Steven LoDolce with Bax

State park police Officer Steven LoDolce with Bax at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Security once again has been tightened before the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach State Park, officials said, though not all of the upgrades will be announced or visible.

“Every year we add another layer of security for the public and the performers,” said Maj. Anthony Astacio of the New York state park police.

Drones, more plainclothes officers specially trained to spot suspicious behavior or actions and extra security cameras were among the new measures he listed.

All commercial trucks delivering supplies for the 15th annual air show will be searched, said Astacio and George Gorman, the state parks department’s Long Island regional director.

“We do not divulge a lot of the things we do,” Astacio said. “There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes issues going on that I really cannot touch on for public safety reasons.”

The state park police is the lead agency for the event. It will be joined by officers from the State Police — also armed with tactical weapons — the U.S. Coast Guard and the Wantagh Fire Department.

“We all come together to ensure that we have a nice, safe weekend for Memorial Day,” Astacio said. “We make it look easy to the public eye.”

Last year, additional vehicle-stopping concrete bollards were installed in the tunnels below the parkway that visitors use to get to the beach from the parking fields, Gorman said.

Department of Transportation dump trucks and more concrete barriers again will shield the Central Mall.

Bags, backpacks and picnic baskets all will be searched at various stations.

Traffic should flow more smoothly, Gorman said, because for the first time toll booths will not collect parking fees. Instead, air show spectators can drive around them and pay at automated stations in the parking fields.

Some of the most popular security officers again will be hard at work, though not when the jets are screaming overhead.

Two young German shepherds, Mag, who works with state park police Officer Matthew Salvatore, 38, and Bax, who is paired with Officer Steven LoDolce, 30, will be sniffing for explosives.

Long before the show begins, they will sweep the park — looking for anything that might contain or look like an explosive device — along with other canine patrols from upstate parks and the State Police.

The K-9 teams will conduct additional searches throughout the event.

“We run our dogs throughout the whole place,” LoDolce said.

After what police hope will be a fruitless search, the dogs will be asked to find inert explosives the officers have planted.

“So they do feel like they found something,” LoDolce said. “You’ve got to keep them motivated.”

The reward for their “win” is an energetic game with a toy.

Mag and Bax both came from Europe — their passports say the Czech Republic — but Salvatore said he found the German commands they already knew easier to learn than those spoken in Czech.

If the dogs detect explosive material, they sit or lie down, he said. “They alert us so we can take a photograph and, hopefully, push back the crowd” and set up a perimeter, LoDolce said.

Unlike dogs trained to sniff out illegal drugs, sometimes pawing suspicious items, these two must be “passive,” he said, to avoid setting anything off.

Mag and Bax both live with their officers — who each also have another older dog — and they all get along, they said.

Said Salvatore: “He’s my partner at work and my best friend at home.”

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