By Bill Parry
Last month’s attack at Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport in which terrorists killed 45 people and injured 230 others has prompted U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to call on the feds to investigate security at LaGuardia Airport. Schumer cited a recent investigative report by NBC which showed the baggage pick-up and drop-off areas at LaGuardia lacked surveillance cameras, leaving the areas at-risk in the event of a future terror attack.
“Ensuring robust security at NYC-area airports is public safety 101, even before the rise we have seen in terror threats and attacks,” Schumer said Sunday. “To hear multiple reports that showcase NYC-area airports having serious security issues, like camera blind spots, is a problem that must be fixed immediately. There is no time for delay. There is only time to fix it fast. That’s why I’m urging the Department of Homeland Security to lead an immediate review of security measures at all NYC-area airports.”
In a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Schumer wrote about the security blind spots and that the Port Authority police are unable to access all of the security cameras at once in real-time in order to deal with potential issues. Schumer explained that while DHS recommends security measures for each airport, these recommendations do not need to be followed.
Each airport has a unique Airport Security Plan, which is developed in conjunction with the TSA to fit that particular facility’s layout, size, number of entrances, number of employees and other unique factors. Security cameras at airports are not required by federal law.
The Port Authority currently owns some of the cameras at LaGuardia, while the TSA owns cameras and even the airlines and vendors own cameras. As a result, Schumer said, there is no unified camera system which is essential to security.
According to the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, there are also no cameras in the front roadways or in the common areas such as the food court. Schumer also took security at Newark Airport to task, citing reports of a bomb threat called in from a terminal pay phone that was not caught on camera, and an incident in May where robbers tied up workers and stole $150,000 in cash, But there were no cameras in the area.
“We want DHS to review the most recent claims of blind sports at each airport’s overall security infrastructure,” Schumer said. “If DHS finds there are major holes, we must close them as soon as possible because only 360-degree airport security will do.”
The Port Authority denies any blind spots with “several thousand” closed-circuit security cameras strategically placed at all of their facilities and continues to expand coverage and use of security cameras and other technologies in existing areas and new projects. A spokesman said its multi-layered security approach in securing its airports far exceeds DHS and TSA requirements and includes the use of PAPD patrols supplemented by contract security services, security technology and the hardening and protection of physical locations.
“In the wake of last month’s attack on a Turkish airport, the Port Authority added high-visibility patrols with tactical weapons and equipment at Kennedy, Newark Liberty and LaGuardia airports and has increased the number of officers assigned to terminal patrols,” he said. “Our police also conduct random terminal and vehicular security checks.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr