New York

I-Team: Investigation Into Abandoned Pressure Cooker at Newark Airport Again Stymied by Lack of Security Cameras

What to Know

  • Police trying to track down the person who left a pressure cooker outside a Newark Airport terminal had no security footage to work with
  • It again exposed the lack of cameras outside the terminal entrance at Newark Airport, which the I-Team reported in June 2016
  • Port Authority police officers are again renewing their call for access to a unified security system at the airport

Investigators trying to track down the person who dumped a pressure cooker at Newark Airport over the weekend were again frustrated by the lack of security cameras outside the terminal, they tell the I-Team. 

The pressure cooker, abandoned on the curb outside Terminal A on Saturday, immediately raised alarms: the bombers in the Boston Marathon and in Chelsea last year used the very same apparatus. But investigators couldn't look to security footage because there are no cameras outside the immediate entrance to the terminal. 

Last June, the I-Team exposed the lack of cameras in public areas at the airport, and nearly a year later, "there are still no cameras curbside," said Frank Conti, first vice president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association. 

The union, which represents the Port Authority police officers assigned to the three major New York City-area airports, has long been asking for access to a unified security camera system, and wrote a letter to federal officials in 2012 about it. 

The lack of cameras could leave airports even more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, according to Michael Balboni, New York state's former Homeland Security advisor. 

"In this day and age, that's truly the baseline for our airports. We know they are targets," he said. 

Referring to the I-Team report, he added, "Your report a year ago was a clarion call to double down on security video surveillance capabilities at area airports." 

Terminal A was evacuated for about an hour as police investigated the pressure cooker, which was left inside a brown shopping bag next to a large garbage can outside on level 3. Conti says Port Authority police detectives ultimately cobbled together video from some vendors inside the airport to finally track down the man who abandoned the pressure cooker.

"This is not something our officers should have to do after the fact, to knock on doors and get a piece here, a piece there, to put together a picture of what happened," he said. "We need to have a unified system of surveillance." 

The Port Authority said in a statement it has several thousand closed-circuit cameras "strategically" placed in operation across all its facilities and it is "continuing to expand our coverage and use of security cameras and other technologies in existing areas and new projects." 

"The cameras currently in use at Newark Airport were critical in identifying the person responsible for the event on May 28, 2017," the Port Authority said. 

Authorities say it appears the man who left behind the pressure cooker had no ill intent. Pressure cookers are actually not prohibited from planes, according to the TSA, and the man tried to carry it on -- but an airline employee told him it was too bulky, investigators said.

Still, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer says there are no excuses. 

"The bottom line is, Newark's gotta get with it," he said. "The Port Authority's gotta get with it, and put 360-degree security cameras." 

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