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Originally published Monday, March 17, 2014 at 9:52 AM

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Extra airport security may not be worth it

Study that assesses risk and cost suggests it could be worth relaxing some security


Los Angeles Times

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Months after an airport screener was killed in a shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport, a new report concludes that adding more security measures at the nation’s airports may not be worth the cost.

The study goes on to suggest that it might even make sense to relax some of the existing security tactics.

“It may be time to reduce security,” said John Mueller, a professor of political science at Ohio State University, who wrote the report with Mark G. Stewart, a civil engineering professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

Mueller and Stewart conclude that airports are not good targets for terrorists and that the odds of being killed in an airport attack are extremely long. Their study, titled “Cost-benefit analysis of airport security: Are airports too safe?,” appeared in the March edition of Journal of Air Transport Management.

The study relied on cost and risk reduction numbers for LAX but were calculated before the Nov. 1 rampage by a gunman who killed Transportation Security Administration agent Gerardo Hernandez, 39, and wounded several others. Mueller said the shooting did not change his cost analysis.

The Mueller-Stewart study looked at several potential threats, including a gunman, a suitcase bomb, a truck bomb and a bomb strapped to a person. The professors also looked at the cost and effectiveness of such security measures as adding more bomb-sniffing dogs, and installing permanent vehicle search checkpoints and shatterproof glass and blast deflection walls at the airports.

Using cost-analysis computations, the study concluded that the cost of such measures would not be justified, considering they would not completely eliminate the threat.

“Moreover, if the analysis suggests that enhancement of airport security is highly questionable, it may well be time to consider if many of the security arrangements already in place to protect airports are excessive,” the report said.

LAX police declined to discuss future airport security measures.

Jan Brueckner, a UC Irvine economics professor and airline industry expert, agreed that airports are not a priority target for terrorists “but some level of spending on security makes sense,” he said.

Although many travelers complain about airline security, Brueckner said the current level of security at airports doesn’t seem intrusive.



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