What to Know
- The I-Team found security cameras lacking at Newark and LaGuardia airports
- Union members say the lack of surveillance leaves airports vulnerable
- The Port Authority said it would not discuss the specifics of security operations or technology in use at its facilities
Security cameras inside baggage areas and near doors and pick up and drop off areas at Newark Liberty International Airport and LaGuardia Airport are lacking, an I-Team investigation has found.
The I-Team surveyed the arrivals terminals at Newark and LaGuardia airports, as well as at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and found surveillance blind spots at the first two that, a day after suicide bombers killed 41 people and injured hundreds at a busy Turkish hub, are raising eyebrows.
The Port Authority Police Benevolent Association – the union that represents airport police – is sounding the alarm.
“We have no cameras in the frontage roadways at our airports -- no cameras in the common areas, food courts and no video surveillance once you pass screening and go down into the gate areas," said Frank Conti, first vice president of the Port Authority PBA.
The surveillance isn't mandated. Homeland Security offers recommendations to individual airports on security, but the tools and procedures by which security is implemented are at the discretion of the individual airports and their operators, according to security expert Manny Gomez of MG Security Services.
Often, security cameras are a layered responsibility between the airport authority, TSA and individual vendors.
"Action beats reaction and right now we are being very reactionary,” Gomez said.
Gomez says the lack of cameras can leave an airport vulnerable, particularly given the current climate.
“There should perhaps be some federal legislation to mandate it because this is vital to the safety of our airways,” said Gomez. “We don't need another 9/11."
The absent cameras were notable in two recent incidents at Newark airport. In early June, a man called authorities and threatened to open fire and blow up a British Airways plane. Police flooded the airport and moved the plane to a remote area to deplane passengers. Police later determined the threat was not credible. But sources tell the I-Team the phone call was made from a payphone in the terminal. And because there were no cameras in the area, authorities were never able to get a picture of the suspect and no one was arrested.
In May, violent robbers tied up Smart Carte workers and ran off with $150,000 cash. No video cameras captured their presence.
“Typical to the Port Authority, we are again behind the times,” said Conti.
The Port Authority said it would not discuss the specifics of security operations or technology in use at its facilities.
"We have thousands of closed-circuit security cameras strategically placed in operation across all our facilities, including our airports, and we are continuing to expand our coverage and use of security cameras in existing areas and in new projects," Thomas Belfiore, chief security officer with the Port Authority, said. "We continue to work with the TSA to ensure maximum camera coverage in critical areas of our airport facilities."
Also alarming, police union officials say, is there are no unified security camera systems at any of the region's airports – so Port Authority police cannot access all cameras at once in real time in order to deal with potential threats.
"If we had access to these live feeds at all times, that could literally be life-saving to be able to extemporaneously deal with a situation that's going on right in front of us," Conti said.
"We ask the Port Authority and the Transportation Security Administration again, as we have many times in the past, to help by adding a state-of-the-art, unified security camera system throughout the terminals of JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports as well as all our nation’s major airports," added Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority PBA. "The proactive and investigative value of such systems should not be understated."