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County officials set to announce first homeland security director

LAWRENCEVILLE - Four years after two of the Sept. 11 hijackers flew out of the Gwinnett County airport, county officials are expected to announce the county's first homeland security director.

County Administrator Jock Connell called a press conference for today to talk about the formation of a homeland security office in the state's second largest county.

Connell said he has chosen to place the homeland security director within the Gwinnett County Police Department, making the director answer to the police chief.

In 2004, then-Chief Bill Dean retired from the Police Department and began working part-time on homeland security measures.

He issued a seven-page report in May that said the county is "out of the loop" when it comes to homeland security efforts.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington turned the nation's attention to the issue, individual departments were charged with maintaining homeland security in Gwinnett, where two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were known to have trained.

Efforts have been made to coordinate with the nine other police jurisdictions within the county, the Fire Department, health organizations and other resources, but Dean said more should be done.

Because of the lack of organization, the county has missed out on grant funds distributed throughout the state, Dean said.