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LAX safer after $1.6-billion security investment, report says

November 2, 2011 |  9:01 am

Los Angeles International Airport
A study released Wednesday concludes that $1.6-billion in security measures in the decade since 9/11 have helped make Los Angeles International Airport much safer. But LAX still needs to improve emergency management, police coordination and other functions, the report says.

"The report confirms what we know to be true: LAX is safe and is safer today than it was following 9/11," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, adding that the airport has already implemented many of the report's recommendations. "We will be taking concrete steps to further enhance security and protect the flying public."

LAX, the nation's third-busiest commercial airport, has been identified as one of the top potential targets for terrorists in the state. Since 9/11, the airport has added about 250 law enforcement personnel and spent $1.1 billion to expand security operations and $500 million for capital improvements such as fencing, barriers, security cameras, baggage screening systems and a new communications center, according to the report.

In the wake of media reports of problems related to police staffing, fire safety and law enforcement communications at LAX, the mayor created a 27-member panel a year ago to assess airport security and make recommendations.

The panel included experts with backgrounds in homeland security, law enforcement, academia, anti-terrorism, technology and emergency management. Lourdes G. Baird, a retired federal judge, headed the panel.

"Throughout the process, the panel found the airport to be safe and sought to provide recommendations to enhance it further," Baird said. "I am confident that the leaders at the airport will continue to make public safety their highest priority."

The panel made 58 recommendations to improve security at LAX. Among other things, it said Los Angeles World Airports should update its strategic plan for security, consider creating an intelligence director and conduct "a top-to-bottom review" of its resources dedicated to the prevention of terrorism.

Panelists called for better collaboration between law enforcement agencies and suggested that airport officials solicit and address the security concerns of private companies at LAX.

The report further recommended that security procedures for cargo operations be audited more frequently and that leases should clearly spell out the security responsibilities for tenants. Vetting of applicants for security badges also needs to be improved.

Panelists called on the federal Transportation Security Administration to use a risk-based system to determine how much screening passengers they should be given and to create a "trusted traveler" program to expedite passengers that have been cleared by the agency based on comprehensive background checks.

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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Allen J. Schaben

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