About the data set
In April 2015, The Associated Press published the first publicly available data set that detailed breaches of perimeter security fencing and gates at major U.S. airports. To compile that data set, AP requested records of breaches from the nation's 30 largest airports, as measured by passenger traffic, as well as Mineta San Jose International Airport, where in April 2014 a 15-year-old boy jumped a fence, got into the wheel well of a jet and survived a flight to Hawaii. Most of the 31 airports complied with AP's records requests, and the data showed 268 breaches from January 2004 through early 2015.
A year later, AP is updating this data set to reflect breaches in all of 2015 and early 2016, as well as to add several dozen breaches from the prior decade that airports did not reveal during AP's original reporting. Information on 2015/2016 breaches came both from airports and from records in a Transportation Security Administration database which AP received under a long-running Freedom of Information Act request. Records prior to 2015 that are new to this data set came from the TSA FOIA request. As a third source, AP checked news accounts and found a handful of breaches since 2004 that neither airports nor TSA provided.
In all, AP has now identified 345 breaches from Jan. 1, 2004, through mid-February 2016. Breaches had to be of perimeter fencing or other barriers – as opposed to instances within terminals in which, for example, a passenger went unscreened through a TSA security checkpoint or walked out the wrong exit door and onto the tarmac.
AP counted an incident as a perimeter security breach if someone reached an airport's secure area under scenarios typically including: going over or under a fence, slipping past a vehicle gate, crashing a vehicle into or through a fence or gate from outside airport property, cutting a fence or passing items through or over one, or using fraudulent credentials to get inside. About three dozen incidents provided by airports and the TSA have not been included because they did not meet AP's criteria.
Each row represents one perimeter security breach. These breaches are distinct from any security breaches that happened at passenger terminals. Terminal breaches are not reflected in this data set.Download the data files: airport-security.zip
Important notes about the data set:
This May 2016 release updates the data set to reflect the 345 breaches AP identified – 77 more than the prior release. Of the 77 new breaches, 41 were in 2015 or early 2016, while 36 others happened from the beginning of 2004 through the end of 2014.
By tabulating breaches from three sources – airports, the Transportation Security Administration database and news accounts – this data set is the most complete resource available publicly for analyzing the scale and frequency of perimeter security breaches at major U.S. airports. Still, it is incomplete. Officials at Boston Logan International refused to provide any data, citing state law. At Philadelphia International, officials have refused to release details of breaches for 2015 and 2016, despite agreeing last year to provide prior records following litigation. Getting an exact count of incidents for San Francisco International in 2015 and 2016 was not possible. The airport said it identified five incidents as potential perimeter security breaches, but that at the airport's request the top local TSA official reviewed the incidents and determined none met TSA's definition of a security breach. At the same time, in response to AP's Freedom of Information Act request for records about perimeter security breaches, the TSA provided information on two incidents, both of which qualified as a perimeter security breach under AP's criteria. Other documents showed a third, minor breach, which AP also included. AP could not determine whether the fourth and fifth incidents fit AP's criteria, so they were not included.
AP did not include 21 incidents that TSA identified in its FOIA responses because they did not meet AP's definition of a breach.
Total number of known perimeter security breaches by year from Jan. 1, 2004, through Feb. 17, 2016:
BY AP IN 2015
Total number of known perimeter security breaches by airport from Jan. 1, 2004, through Feb. 17, 2016:
BY AP IN 2015
|San Francisco International*||CA||37||4||41|
|Los Angeles International||CA||24||2||26|
|Mineta San Jose International||CA||18||3||21|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International||AZ||12||9||21|
|John F. Kennedy International||NY||4||8||12|
|Minneapolis-St. Paul International||MN||10||1||11|
|Chicago O'Hare International||IL||4||6||10|
|Dallas Ft. Worth International||TX||6||3||9|
|Charlotte Douglas International||NC||6||2||8|
|Salt Lake City International||UT||8||8|
|Washington Dulles International||VA||8||8|
|George Bush Intercontinental||TX||7||7|
|Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International||GA||5||5|
|Newark Liberty International||NJ||4||4|
|San Diego International||CA||3||1||4|
|Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International||FL||3||3|
|Chicago Midway International Airport||IL||1||1||2|
|Baltimore Washington International||MD||1||1|
Check here for other notes about AP's data set published in 2015: http://data.ap.org/projects/2015/airport-security/
Here is a basic data dictionary for the fields contained in the spreadsheet:
- airport_code: The airport's three letter "location identifier" code assigned by the International Air Transport Association.
- airport_name: The airport's full name.
- airport_state: The state where the airport is located.
- date: The date of the perimeter security breach.
- year: The year of the perimeter security breach.
- time_elapsed: When known, the amount of time between when the incident began and when it ended, typically because authorities apprehended a suspect. Airports often would not furnish this information, citing security concerns, though AP was able to calculate or otherwise figure it out in some instances.
- number_of_people: The number of people known to be involved in the breach.
- apprehended: Whether authorities caught the suspect or suspects.
- arrested: Whether authorities arrested the suspect or suspects. Some suspects were either cited and released or taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.
- publishable_incident_description: A short narrative of the incident.
- source: There are several sources for these data. "Reported by AP in 2015" includes the 268 breaches in the original data set. Incidents that have been added in this update are designated "Airport" (when the airport provided records); "TSA" (when the Transportation Security Administration included records under a Freedom of Information Act request); "AP Research 2016" (incidents found through searches of news reports).