With the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks days away, law enforcement officials gathered at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday morning to speak about security improvements the airport has made since that fateful day.
Los Angeles World Airports Police Chief George R. Centeno stood with the directors of Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Los Angeles Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assure passengers that LAX continues to be one of the most secure airports in the nation due to the strong partnership between the agencies.
"The only reason for our success as Americans is that we work collectively as one to protect our homeland," said Centeno. "The military, federal, state and local governments have committed to sharing information and following up on all credible information."
Since 9/11 Los Angeles World Airports has created the Critical Infrastructure Protection Unit in order to study terrorist trends and reevaluate the airports' vulnerability as well as the Vulnerability Assessment Analysis Unit, which works closely with TSA to ensure compliance of security measures. The agency has also increased law enforcement personnel from 517 before 9/11 to 811.
Partnering with LAPD, the airport boasts more explosive detection K9s than at any other single U.S. airport while TSA and U.S. Customers and Border Protection has thousands of employees conduct screening and inspection programs for passengers, baggage and cargo.
Increasing annual spending from $48.1 million in 2001 to $126.9 million on safety and security has helped improve in-line baggage screening, perimeter fencing and the LAX Airport Response Coordination Center. No other U.S. airport matches LAX's annual funding.
"We know LAX is a target," said Steve Gomez from the FBI Counter-Terrorism Division. "While there is no guarantee in this business that we are going to prevent everything from occurring, we have resources on the ground and are able to protect the citizens traveling through LAX on a daily basis."
However, the biggest agency improvement has come from TSA. Though plagued with bad publicity over the past few years, the agency has made various improvements since 2001 to better protect an airport that handles two million passengers a day.
Prior to 9/11, airports only screened 3% of checked bags, now, after the creation of TSA, 100% of checked bags are screened. Technology has also improved since 2001 from walk-though metal detectors to advanced imagery technology and more personal pat-downs. Such enhancements have aided in the confiscation of 50 million prohibited items, including 4,600 firearms, nationwide.
"TSA has experienced our failures," said Randy Parson, TSA's Federal Security Director of LAX.. "But our goal is take each one of those experience and learn from it and improve on it."
While LAX is supported by the most up-to-date technology, best trained law enforcement and screening agents, and biggest security budget in the nation, the panel stressed that the passengers themselves are crucial to stopping potential terrorists attacks.
"Trust your gut," said Parson. "Most people know if something looks odd and out of the ordinary and our message is, if you see something like that, contact the authorities and let them use their trained eye to determine the threat."
Aja Dang is a graduate student at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which has partnered with KCET-TV to produce this blog about policy in Los Angeles.
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