LAX More Secure 10 Years After 9/11
Los Angeles International Airport is more secure than it was following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as a result of $1.6 billion spent on improvements over the past decade, according to a report released Wednesday.
The 27-member blue ribbon commission, appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last November, released the report, which lauded the security improvements, but also said that better communication is needed between police agencies. The panel, led by former federal judge Lourdes Baird, also said LAX remains a terrorist target.
The panel, comprised of members from homeland security backgrounds, academia, law enforcement, technology and emergency management, put together the report which includes 187 security improvements, 80 percent of which have already been approved and acted upon.
"It is safe to say that we have some work to do to make our airport safer still," the mayor said.
LAX is the third-busiest airport in the United States. In 2010, about 59 million people and 1.9 million tons of freight passed through the airport.
Since 9/11, the number of airport officers has increased by 170 percent, but the report said communications problems remain between the 425-member Airport Police Department and the much-larger Los Angeles Police Department. The panel suggested consolidation of the two agencies, but 64 percent of voters previously rejected the proposal in 2005.
"I support consolidation, but it is a matter that the people already voted on," said Villaraigosa.
Specific threats to LAX were not cited in the report for security reasons. The mayor said, "We want this to be a blueprint for the good guys, not a blueprint for the bad guys."
With 767 law enforcement officers, LAX has more security personnel than any other airport in the country, according to LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey.
Lindsey also highlighted the airport's 30 bomb-sniffing dogs and remote vehicle-inspection program.
Since 2000, violent crime decreased by 71 percent and property crime by 69 percent, according to Lindsey.
"We will not stop hunting for opportunities to make a safe airport safer," she said.
Despite the government and airport officials' commitment to funding and enacting security improvements in the past decade, passengers are unsure if the measures are as effective as they seem.
Traveler Matt Lane said he questions the effectiveness of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening process, based on an experience he had at LAX.
"I was walking through security and they had an old lady, looking kind of feeble, with her arms out, and they were patting her down," Lane described. "It made me feel bad for her. It made me wonder if the process is working."
Lane said on this same trip he was able to pass through security with change in his pockets and a flask filled with more than 3 oz. of alcohol without any problems.
"The screening process isn't always as great as they say it is, because I walked through with change in my pocket and other things," Lane said.
Another LAX traveler told ATVN that he once accidentally left a 3-inch folding knife in his carry-on bag, which passed through security twice without having been confiscated.
In conjuction with the release of the report Wednesday, Villaraigosa announced a $13.5 million TSA grant for a new airport camera network. The mayor also announced a five-part security plan, which includes new fencing and other physical barriers, a new facility for the police department and updated emergency management procedures.