Report Details 268 Perimeter Breaches at Major U.S. Airports
Security analysts predict spending on physical security barriers will decline as more airports seek to deploy more high-tech perimeter security solutions.
DENVER – A recently conducted investigation revealed that as many as 268 perimeter breaches have occurred at U.S. airports since 2004.
In those instances, intruders have hopped over and crawled under fences, slipped past guardhouses, crashed their cars through gates or otherwise breached perimeter security at 31 of the nation’s busiest airports from January 2004 through this January, Associated Press reports.
Among the findings of the investigation, Associated Press found that intruders made it to runways, taxiways or to the gate area where planes park to refuel or load passengers at least 44 times.
Additionally, more than half of the breaches occurred at seven international airports in four states. San Francisco had the most with 37 breaches. The others include Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Jose, Calif., Miami and Tampa, Fla.
During the investigation, few airports revealed how long it took to apprehend intruders, noting that disclosing such information could show security vulnerabilities. However, the available information showed most arrests happened within 10 minutes, although several people went undetected for hours or were never caught.
It is the airports responsibility to secure perimeters. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reviews their security plans, conducts spot checks and can levy penalties. Between 2010 through 2014, TSA said it issued $277,155 in fines for 136 breaches.
Airport officials maintain that perimeters are secure, but how are facilities making sure that everything is safe?
One of the most noticeable forms of perimeter security at airports is fencing that is topped with barbed or razor wire. Additionally, security gates help restrict access to airfields.
Some airports have gone above the basics of perimeter security. For example, the McAllen-Miller International Airport installed optic fibers in its fences over concerns about violence spilling across the Rio Grande. The technology is also used at U.S. nuclear facilities and can detect an intrusion immediately and send an alert, Associated Press reports.
Additionally, several major airports are using thermal-imaging cameras to protect perimeters because the devices detect heat and can serve as a virtual tripwire and improve nighttime visibility.
Other facilities, such as John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, employ a Raytheon system that includes motion-detection cameras, “smart-fence” sensors, night-vision cameras, perimeter alarms and a power subsystem to bypass outages.
Although perimeter security is important, some airport security analysts predict that spending on physical perimeter barriers will decline in the near future. Rather, most airports will begin investing in high-tech solutions that find new ways to sense and transmit data.
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However, it won’t be that simple to overhaul linking fences and video feeds to software systems. Money continues to be a stumbling block for many airports and the transition could cost between a few million to less than $10 million, according to security industry experts.
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