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Questions about a new airport security system

January 15, 2010 9:46:32 PM PST
The Port Authority's newly installed Perimeter Intrusion Detection System took four years and at least $100-million dollars to build. It rings New York's four major airports with the barrier fencing, cameras, and sensors to detect intrusions, but there's a problem.

"The system is not up an running at any of the airports," said Paul Nunziato of the Port Authority Police Union.

Eyewitness News has learned that Raytheon, which designed the perimeter system, has been testing it for months at Teterboro airport.

But the sensors trigger false alarms, alerting when it's too windy, rainy, or a squirrel gets too close.

We obtained a letter in which a fed up Port Authority puts the CEO of Raytheon on notice for an "inadequate performance" and ''lack of focus." The Port Authority states that the project has reached "a critical juncture" and that it will not accept ''the (perimeter ) system as currently designed."

We've confirmed the Port Authority has stopped all payments to Raytheon. In a press release, four years ago, Raytheon touted its "smart fencing" system with its "command and control" centers as a first of its kind. Pictures we've obtained show the command center at JFK isn't even installed. The same is true at LaGuardia, where the monitoring equipment remains in boxes.

"In the meantime, you have no perimeter security," Nunziato said.

What worries the Port Authority Police Union is that in recent years perimeter patrols have been reduced. A police roll call from two years ago shows a designated perimeter patrol at JFK. Another roll call from last week shows no patrols assigned to the perimeter.

"It's a big gamble to rely on untested technology, remove your police patrol and think nothing bad is going to happen. I wouldn't take that gamble," Nunziato said.

The Port Authority says it has 30-percent more police at its airports than before 9/11. A spokesman adds that they "are working with Raytheon to fix the software problems with the perimeter detectors. Once it's resolved, they can quickly get the system up and running at all airports."

The Port Authority says it has no time-frame for when Raytheon will fix the sensors.

A Raytheon spokesman says it's not unusual to encounter challenges when fielding such an advanced system for the first time. The company says they recognize their responsibilities and are committed to supporting their customer. Their customer being the Port Authority, the first in the nation to buy Raytheon's untested perimeter system.

If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at the.investigators@abc.com and follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates


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