AP Investigation Details Hundreds of Perimeter Breaches at US Airports
- By Matt Holden
- Apr 10, 2015
An Associated Press investigation has found 268 perimeter breaches since 2004 at airports that handle three-quarters of U.S. commercial passenger traffic. The breaches include intruders hopping fences, slipping past guardhouses, crashing their cars through gates and even managing to climb aboard jets.
At Los Angeles International, a mentally ill man hopped the fence eight times in less than a year — twice reaching stairs that led to jets.
"Disturbing," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in response to the AP report during an "Ask the Mayor" segment on KNX-AM radio, noting that he wasn't surprised at his airport's 24 breaches because it is one of the largest in the nation.
"All it takes is one person who can get through and do something," he said.
Up until now, few of the incidents had been publicly reported. None of the incidents involved a terrorist plot, according to officials. Instead, most involved intruders who wanted to take a shortcut, were lots, disoriented, drunk or mentally unstable but seemingly harmless. One was caught with a loaded handgun.
"This might be the next vulnerable area for terrorists as it becomes harder to get the bomb on the plane through the checkpoint," said airport security expert Jeff Price.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to upgrade perimeter fencing, cameras and detection technology. Many airports have dozens of miles of fencing, but not all of that is frequently patrolled or always in view of security cameras.
Airport officials insist perimeters are secure, and that an intruder being caught is proof their systems work. They declined to outline specific measures, other than to say they have layers that include fences, cameras and patrols. Employees are required to ask for proof of security clearance if a badge is not obvious.
Authorities said it is neither financially nor physically feasible to keep all intruders out.
Matt Holden is an Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media, Inc. He received his MFA and BA in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He currently writes and edits for Occupational Health & Safety magazine, and Security Today.