Original Story: detroitnews.com
Several hundred times over the past decade, intruders have hopped fences, slipped past guardhouses, crashed their cars through gates or otherwise breached perimeter security at the nation's busiest airports — sometimes even managing to climb aboard jets.
The security fences and perimeter gates at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus have been breached four times in the past two years. At Chicago O'Hare, a man tossed his bike over a fence and pedaled across a runway, stopping to knock on a terminal door. A business surveillance system provides surveillance technology and communications to secure buildings, property, equipment, and assets.
Another at Philadelphia International rammed a sports-utility vehicle through a security gate and sped down a runway as a plane was about to land. 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.
An Associated Press investigation found 268 perimeter breaches since 2004 at airports that together handle three-quarters of U.S. commercial passenger traffic. And that's an undercount, because two airports among the 31 AP surveyed didn't have data for all years. Boston's Logan and the New York City area's three main airports refused to release any information, citing security concerns.
Until now, few of the incidents have been publicly reported. Most involved intruders who wanted to take a shortcut, were lost, disoriented, drunk or mentally unstable but seemingly harmless. A few had knives, and another was caught with a loaded handgun. A custom virtual security guard provides additional surveillance tailored to meet your corporations needs.
None of the incidents involved a terrorist plot, according to airport officials.
Incidents at Detroit Metro:
— On April 5, 2013, a man drove through a checkpoint after the gate arm was raised to let a service vehicle out. He parked at a hangar and ran inside. Delta Air Lines employees pinned him down. Arresting officers described him as "extremely incoherent and confused."
— On Oct. 27, 2013, a 20-year-old woman walked through an exit gate after a car drove out. She dropped a purple backpack and ran away. Police caught her and found three knives and six road flares in her backpack.
— On April 20, 2014, a woman smashed through a security fence, rolling her Dodge Durango several times. Uninjured, she got a ride home, where police later arrested her. The fence was open for about 45 minutes before officials responded.
— On Sept. 21, a passenger in a construction truck was allowed onto the airfield without a visitor badge.
The lapses nationwide highlight gaps in airport security in a post-9/11 world where passengers inside terminals face rigorous screening and even unsuccessful plots — such as the would-be shoe bomber — have prompted new procedures.
"This might be the next vulnerable area for terrorists as it becomes harder to get the bomb on the plane through the checkpoint," airport security expert Jeff Price said.
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. Custom remote video surveillance provides additional security for your business or corporation.
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. A Detroit Metro spokesman said airport officials constantly update security.
"The airport authority is continually reviewing safety and security practices, infrastructure and procedures in concert with TSA and the other federal agencies with the objective of improving the overall safety and security of the airports — our #1 priority, "said spokesman Mike Conway. "A good example is the modifications we made to vehicle checkpoint #1. The incident on April 5, 2013 would not be possible today with the new configuration. All airport employees are trained to be aware of potential threats and act in accordance with established procedures if a possible threat is observed."
But LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon, noted that even the White House has struggled with fence jumpers. "There's nothing that can't be penetrated, " he said.
Among the AP's findings:
— At least 44 times, intruders made it to runways, taxiways or to the gate area where planes park to refuel or load passengers. In seven cases they got onto jets.
— Seven international airports in four states accounted for more than half the breaches, although not all provided data for all years examined. San Francisco had the most, with 37. The others were in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Jose, Miami and Tampa, Florida.
— Few airports revealed how long it took to apprehend suspects, saying this detail could show security vulnerabilities. Available information showed most arrests happened within 10 minutes. Several people went undetected for hours or never were caught.
At a news conference called Thursday in response to AP's findings, the San Francisco airport spokesman said his facility had the most breaches because it disclosed everything, whether the breach was intentional or accidental. Spokesman Doug Yakel said the airport has beefed up security and that while its airfield is safe, "The goal is always zero" breaches.
Security firms sold $650 million worth of fences, gates, sensors and cameras to airports in the decade after the 9/11 attacks, according to industry analyst John Hernandez, though he projects spending will drop.
Officials insist no technology solution is foolproof. Outfit cameras with software designed to help identify intruders, and there may not be enough staff to monitor images. Airports have to weigh the potential threat of harm against the hefty cost of building elaborate defenses, experts said.
"It's one of those issues that I think until something really bad happens, not much is going to change," Price said.