Leaky SFO tops US in airport breaches

San Francisco International Airport officials Thursday addressed media reports that found SFO has among the most airport security breaches in the nation in the past decade, saying numerous security improvements have been implemented in recent years.

The Associated Press released information obtained via public records requests that found SFO has had 37 breaches of their 15-mile security perimeter since 2004. An average of three to four incidents occur per year, but that number includes unintentional or inadvertent security breaches, SFO spokesman Doug Yakel said at a news conference this morning.

Of those 37 incidents, only two of them involved access to aircraft. One of those incidents occurred in a maintenance hangar and the other happened at an unidentified corporate aviation facility on airport grounds, Yakel said. Six of the incidents occurred along the airport’s water perimeter in the San Francisco Bay and four of them involved breaches of the airport’s perimeter fencing.

Security breaches that occurred inside the airport’s terminals were not included, Yakel said. Sixteen of the security breaches discussed during this morning’s news conference involved homeless individuals or those facing “mental challenges,” Yakel said. He linked those incidents to the presence of a homeless shelter adjacent to the airport perimeter.

Yakel said airport officials are engaged in outreach with nearby homeless shelters in an effort to ensure that their clients maintain a safe distance from the perimeter. SFO has completed a number of security improvements recently, including the installation of thermal imaging cameras and high-mast lighting around the security perimeter, according to Yakel.

They’ve also increased security patrols and staffing at vehicle checkpoints along the perimeter, improved the barriers at those checkpoints and enhanced the airport’s motion sensor alarm notification system, he said. The airport also has a number of security improvements currently underway, including the expansion of a perimeter intrusion detection system, according to Yakel.

Yakel said SFO’s goal is to reduce the number of security breaches to zero and they are continuously working to improve the airport’s perimeter protection.