How safe is Will Rogers World Airport?

Passengers at a Will Rogers World Airport TSA check point. (KOKH).JPG

As we enter travel season FOX 25 is taking a look at the safety and security of Oklahoma City’s main airport. We requested information from the Transportation Security Administration about the number of times security has been breached at Will Rogers World Airport over the past five years.

The TSA responded with documents detailing a number of security breaches. However, as we investigated we found out some of those security incidents point to the fact that programs to prevent security lapses are working.

“We take security very seriously,” said Karen Carney with Will Rogers World Airport.

Last year the TSA launched the "This is my airport" campaign that Oklahoma City has implemented. Similar to Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign for the general public, the TSA program is aimed at making sure everyone who works inside airports takes security seriously.

“We have quite a few tenants on the airport, not only in the terminal building, but also on our property,” Carney said, “And those people who are getting ready to be employed have to have background checks fingerprinting, they go through training and they are issued a badge based on the access that they need.”

Security badges are one key to limiting access to sensitive parts of the airport. Our review of records shows nearly a dozen of those badges and security cards have been lost or stolen since 2009. Most of those lost or stolen badges belonged to TSA agents.

A TSA spokesperson told FOX 25 that agent badges provide only limited airport access and the agency works with local airports to make sure lost or stolen security credentials are reported.

“TSA works in partnership with airport operators and other stakeholders to mitigate the risks associated with lost or stolen IDs. Airport operators develop and implement TSA-approved security procedures to control access to sterile and secure areas. ID badges for each restricted area are generally unique and do not provide access to the other restricted areas of an airport. The use of a badge frequently requires a code, fingerprint or another step to gain access, and badge holders are subject to unpredictable physical screening in secure areas.”

“The very first thing we do is turn off the access to that badge so if you found it and picked it up you wouldn't be able to go up to any gate or any door and try to get inside,” Carney told FOX 25.

But what if the agent or airport employee doesn't know their badge has been stolen?

“If you have a secure area badge there is really more than one process to it the badge is part of it, either there is a pin or biometrics or you have show additional identification,” Carney said.

The records show there were 11 "contained security incidents" at Will Rogers in the past five years. The TSA says this category includes unruly passengers, wrong boarding passes, but could also be someone who was stopped from gaining access to secure areas.

There are nearly 50 other “access control incidents” the TSA tracks in the security breach records provided to FOX 25. We found out those reports mean the airport employees are doing their job.

“If I see you and I can't see your badge, I stop you and make you show your badge,” Carney explained of the airport rules. That means each time a badge is not properly displayed it gets written up as a security incident.

Carney stressed that just a badge, legitimate or stolen, is not enough to bypass any of the airport security procedures.

“They can flash a badge all they want, but the badge will not give them access.”

The TSA was not able to provide us with any ranking for how Will Rogers stacks up on security breaches compared to other airports its size. However, the agency is in the process of implementing recommendations to improve security after a nationwide review analyzing insider threats at our airport.

To read more about the TSA's efforts to improve security and further combat insider threats at airports click here.

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