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Review finds LAX security improved since 9/11, with some room for improvement

November 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new report says Los Angeles International Airport is a lot safer now than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, thanks to security upgrades. But a study group says there is still much room for improvement.

Approximately $1.6 billion have been spent on security and safety improvements at LAX in the past 10 years, and according to a new review, it's paying off. But improvements can still be made.

A panel appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa found vulnerabilities at Los Angeles International Airport, but the report is heavily edited and those are not being publicly discussed.

"We do have some areas that were identified. that we're going to work on to make sure that this is the safest airport in its class," said Villaraigosa.

Its class puts it as the third-busiest airport in the United States. with more than 565 flights per day to domestic locations and more than 1,000 weekly flights to international destinations.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for airport screening. But there are two police agencies: the Los Angeles Police Dept. and the Airport Police. Attempts to combine them and finally have coordination between police agencies at the airport have been unsuccessful. That's considered a vulnerability.

"We think that in the ideal world it would be wonderful to have everyone under one command. That we don't have. But are we missing something because of that? No," said Lourdes Baird, LAX Safety Committee chairwoman.

LAX has spent $1.6 billion on security improvements, including full-body screening to detect items that might be concealed under clothing.

There is an inline baggage handling and screening system that speeds up movement through the airport and checks for explosives.

There are more bomb-sniffing K-9 dogs at LAX than at any other airport.

"While we believe that there is room for improvement, we do not agree that LAX is more vulnerable to a terrorist attack than at any time since 9/11," said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports.

In the very near future passengers will have even more eyes on them. An enhanced closed-circuit TV (CCTV) system will be installed throughout the airport. TSA announced $13.5 million to help fund it -- up to $36 million.

"An effective CCTV system is a cornerstone of a layered security approach in an airport environment where heightened awareness is essential," said TSA Federal Security Director Randy Parsons.

The security changes will probably continue indefinitely. There's a more than $4-billion renovation under way at LAX.


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