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Brussels diamond heist highlights security holes

Greaud said there are cameras and regular patrols inside and outside the fence, and Memphis Airport has a communications center that is the main hub during emergency situations.

“We still have overall responsibility for all of it,” he said. “It’s kind of a shared responsibility along the tenant perimeter fence areas, but the tenant has the first response.”

The airport checks each tenant’s procedures at random, Greaud said.

When it comes to international freight, Miami International Airport ranks No. 1 in the U.S.

“Our cargo operations are very voluminous, and we definitely have to ensure that we’re hardening our perimeter against any types of threat,” said Lauren Stover, director of security at the airport.

A car drove through Miami Airport’s 13.5-mile perimeter fence in 2011, but the airport has overhauled its entire surveillance system, according to Security Info Watch in August 2012.

Stover said there are continuous perimeter patrols, and the fence is reinforced with concrete barriers. Airfield access gates are equipped with hydraulic barriers that can stop any vehicles from barreling through. Thanks to a $10 million grant from the Transportation Security Administration, a ground radar system is in the midst of being deployed. The system will be able to detect any anomalies in the movement on taxiways.

Police officers, guards and canines patrol, and off-duty officers are available for hire to accompany any expensive loads of cargo.

“With all of our layers of security that we have in place, we never can be too sure that everything is 100 percent, so we always have to remain vigilant because we are aware that people are trying to game the system,” Stover said. “There’s the terrorist threat, obviously. There’s the criminal threat.”

Miami Airport is a Category X airport, meaning it is ranked by TSA as one of the nation’s busiest airports in terms of passenger traffic and are potentially attractive targets for criminal and terrorist activity. Philadelphia Airport and Kennedy Airport are also Category X.

The perimeter fence at Miami International Airport. Courtesy of MIA.

Motevalli said perimeter security is an important component of protecting precious cargo – and the entire airport.

“That’s the biggest concern in terms of airport security in general when we worry so much about screening passengers and we spend millions of dollars – billions of dollars, really – on it,” he said. “We put the fence up, but the fences are really there mostly to keep wildlife out or people sort of wondering in. It’s not to prevent this type of threat because somebody determined certainly can cut through a fence or ram it down or whatever.”

One of Motevalli’s suggestions was to dig a ditch around the perimeter. He also pointed out the importance of information security – information such as when precious cargo is being loaded onto a plane and the number of the flight.

He said the thieves in Brussels had obtained this information.

Fried said airports usually have electric monitoring of fences, central control facilities and a warning device for unauthorized entries.

“I think in this case [at the Brussels Airport], we’re looking at a situation where obviously that wasn’t available, wasn’t working or someone just didn’t see it,” he said.

Once the robbers were on the airport property, they wore uniforms and looked official, Fried said.

“If they have the credentials and they’re uniformed, you know that’s an issue,” he said. “From my experience, airport personnel have adopted a culture of challenging those who don’t look like they belong.”

He said the Brussels heist may have been a well-coordinated fluke in security, but there are still steps that must be taken.