- Associated Press - Thursday, April 9, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - The high-tech perimeter security at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport has been breached at least four times in the past decade.

There have been 268 perimeter security breaches at 31 major U.S. airports between January 2004 and January 2015, an Associated Press investigation found. 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.

In 2006, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey awarded Raytheon a $100-million contract for a much-touted “perimeter intrusion detection system” at Kennedy, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and Teterboro airports.

The system includes video motion-detection cameras, “smart-fence” sensors, night-vision cameras, perimeter alarms, even a power subsystem to bypass outages, according to Raytheon’s promotional materials. The company promised a 95 percent detection rate of people, vehicles or watercraft.

“This will allow users to identify and respond to potential threats faster and more efficiently,” said one website brochure.

The system has failed at least once, however.

In one well-publicized incident, a man whose watercraft ran out of fuel in Jamaica Bay swam to shore in 2012, climbed an 8-foot fence at Kennedy and crossed two runways before asking an airline employee for help. The airport came under fire because the system of surveillance cameras and motion detectors failed.

Initially the Port Authority refused to release any information about breaches at Kennedy, Newark and LaGuardia airports - even just a total number, without any specific details. When the AP again requested data in January, the authority’s freedom of information office replied that a revision in policy meant records could be provided. To date, they have not been.

As a result, the AP’s accounting of incidents at these three airports relies on news stories. Based on the fact that airports tend not to reveal breaches publicly, it is likely that there have been others beyond those from this search.

“The agency has invested significant resources in protecting its airport perimeters, exceeding Transportation Security Administration requirements,” the agency said in an emailed statement. “Examples are hardened airfield entry points with devices designed to hold back vehicles, crash-resistant fencing and other physical security improvements.”

The agency did release some additional details about previously reported incidents, including:

- On Sept. 3, 2014, a 22-year-old man police described as mentally ill jumped over a fence into a restricted area, where he tripped an alarm. But the official monitoring the security system couldn’t locate the man because he was out of the camera’s view, the Port Authority said. An airport worker observed the person in a secure area, where police arrested him.

- On Dec. 22, 2013, a 31-year-old “emotionally disturbed” man climbed a security fence and walked around for about 10 minutes before he was detained. The intrusion system alerted officials to the man’s presence and functioned as designed, the Port Authority said.

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