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LAX safer than 9/11


LOS ANGELES, Calif.–LAX is safer today than it was after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, thanks to $1.6 billion spent on improving security over the past decade, but the airport needs better communication between police agencies, a report released today said.

A 27-member blue ribbon commission appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last November released the report, saying Los Angeles International Airport remains a terrorist target. The panel was led by Lourdes Baird, a former federal judge. Members came from homeland security backgrounds, academia, law enforcement, technology, and emergency management.

The report includes 187 security improvements, officials said.

Eighty percent of the recommendations were approved and are moving forward. However, Villaraigosa said, “It is safe to say that we have some work to do to make our airport safer still.”

LAX is the country’s third-busiest airport. It handled about 59 million passengers and 1.9 million tons of freight in 2010.

Since 9/11, the airport has increased the number of police officers by 170 percent, but communications problems between departments linger. The report recommends consolidating the 425-member Airport Police Department and the much larger LAPD.

“I support consolidation, but it is a matter that the people already voted on,” Villaraigosa said. About 64 percent of voters in 2005 rejected joining the two police departments.

Officials declined to site specific threats the panel was most concerned about and were redacted in the report. “We want this to be a blueprint for the good guys, not a blueprint for the bad guys,” Villaraigosa said.

At a news conference today, LAX chief Gina Marie Lindsey talked about security at LAX since 2001.

The airport now has 767 law enforcement officers, “more than at any other major airport,” she said. She touted the airport’s 30 bomb-sniffing dogs and a remote vehicle-inspection program.

Since 2000, Lindsey said, violent crime is down 71 percent and property crime is down 69 percent at the airport. “We will not stop hunting for opportunities to make a safe airport safer,” she said.

Villaraigosa used the release of the report to announce a $13.5 million Transportation Security Administration grant for an airport camera network.

The mayor announced a five part-security plan in response to the report, including fences and other physical barriers, a new facility for the airport police department, and updating emergency management procedures.