AIN Blog: The Illusion of Security

 - October 30, 2011, 5:03 AM
airport lock
Airport security is a bigger issue than most people realize, as locks will not keep out dedicated intruders. (Photo: Mark Huber)

Last month I stored the body armor on the top shelf of the closet for the last time, unloaded the gun and put it away, turned in my badge and gave up the donut and free coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. After 20 years as a part-time county deputy I certainly had doubts about pulling the plug–it’s a mindset, a way of life. The world is composed of sheep, wolves and sheepdogs: I’ve always been a sheepdog. 

It’s been countless hours of directing traffic and providing security for county fairs, charity events and the like, interspersed with moments of domestic violence, home invasions, grisly murder scenes, drugs busts and arrogant gang bangers. During all this was an ever-increasing realization that average citizens truly don’t know how dangerous the world really is; perhaps they don’t want to know.

Granted, to a certain extent there has to be a flock mentality for society to run smoothly, or people would ignore red lights, cut in lines at the grocery store and generally not be good citizens. The problem is sheep put too much trust in the system, believing it will protect them from harm. It won’t. The joke in law enforcement is, “When seconds count, we’re only minutes away.” It’s not law enforcement’s fault. No one could afford the tax bill to have a cop on every corner.

I’ve chosen to teach personal protection and how to make yourself unappealing to bad guys; we call it a hard target. Similarly, we have begun offering home-security audits as well as audits of flight and yacht departments.

Homeland Security has repeatedly expressed concern about about al-Qaida’s threats to use small aircraft as flying bombs. While the aviation industry has talked it down, I suggest it is a very credible threat. There are thousands of privately owned jets that are highly vulnerable.

In a recent security audit of a flight department at a small airport, I was supposed to meet a light jet owner at his hangar. When I arrived, the hangar door was open, no one was around and the aircraft was unlocked. This was a small, open-access airport; anyone could have climbed into the aircraft unimpeded.

I pay special attention to restricted-access doors. Employees will use a piece of cardboard to keep the lock from closing or a small wedge under the door to prevent it from locking them out, rather than take the long way around. They walk away leaving the door vulnerable.

Airport security is a bigger issue than most people realize. Even airports with security, such as key gates or guards, are hardly immune to a dedicated intruder. Key gates only stop honest people and does anyone think unarmed, minimum-wage security guards are going to risk their lives to stop someone from gaining access to the airport? A serious intruder will walk over the typical airport security guard.

On a personal security level, trash cans are a breeding ground for trouble. A bad guy will wander into an FBO or corporate flight-department front office, ask directions or act confused, and quickly check out the trash container in the waiting room. Passengers waiting to depart will drop their magazine, with address label affixed, in the waste basket. It effectively says someone with access to a private jet is going out of town, leaving their home vulnerable.

During a recent seminar, I explained that sociopaths view vulnerability as a weakness to be exploited and asked what one might do to reduce the possibility of being victimized. A woman responded, “I would tell him I have small children and have to take care of them. I’d appeal to his sense of fairness.” I looked at her for a moment, then said, “Baaa.”



How very true. In Australia the only people with guns are the bad guys. It is illegal to carry any kind of weapon, let alone a gun, for self defence. Being a bad guy in Australia is a profitable low risk business. And they wonder why society is out of control.

On the aviation side, I have been a corporate pilot for 38 years now and am still horrified how casual the industry is. It is the same old story, "it won't happen to me"

Thanks Deputy, I just hope more people like you speak up.

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