- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The security fence and gates that surrounds McCarran International Airport has been breached 21 times over the past six years, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Officials at the nation’s ninth-busiest airport attribute the problem to its proximity to the Las Vegas Strip.

“We are located adjacent to one of the adult party zones in the world,” said Chris Jones, an airport spokesman. “And sometimes those people there don’t make the best decisions.”

The AP’s investigation found there have been at least 268 perimeter security breaches at 31 major U.S. airports between January 2004 and January 2015. Incidents ranged from fence jumpers taking shortcuts and intoxicated drivers crashing through barriers to mentally ill intruders looking to hop flights. None was terrorism-related.

Airports say breaches are relatively rare. Security measures typically include fences, cameras and patrols, but there are gaps. Not all of the miles of fences are routinely patrolled or covered by video surveillance.

To increase security after a high-profile perimeter breach at Mineta San Jose International Airport last spring - in which a 15-year-old boy climbed into the wheel well of a jet and survived the flight to Hawaii - McCarran replaced the standard barbed wire with razor wire on 12 miles of fencing. Still, in the fall, three people got over the fencing. Those breaches were among eight total in 2014.

McCarran’s 21 total breaches only reflect incidents since the start of 2009. Citing the intensive nature of the search process, airport officials said they did not have the resources to go back to 2004, as AP requested.

Even with that shorter time frame, only three airports had more breaches, according to AP’s analysis: San Francisco International had 37, Philadelphia International had 25 and Los Angeles International had 24.

Among McCarran’s 21 breaches, seven involved cars crashing into the fence from the outside; 12 people climbed over or under fences; and there were two incidents in which a person was found walking around inside the secure area.

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Associated Press writers Martha Mendoza in San Jose, California, and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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