Airports that adopted the voluntary security measures of AOPA’s Airport Watch saw a steep decline in crime the year after the program’s launch, a study of Pennsylvania general aviation airports has found.
Daniel J. Benny, Ph.D., security discipline chair for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide, conducted a survey of 122 GA airports with no commercial traffic in his home state to determine the impact of the Airport Watch program, which encourages members of airport communities to “Lock up, look out” to help protect their airports. Of the respondent airports, those that adopted the recommended measures saw a decline in crime from 2002, the year before AOPA created the program, to 2004; those that did not saw an increase over the same period.
“The completed research shows that the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Airport Watch program can be a useful tool in general aviation security in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and across the United States in the reduction of crime,” Benny wrote in his study. The program is an important asset in addressing post-9/11 security concerns and allows the GA community to be proactive in aviation security, he added. “This proactive approach is a key factor in the avoidance of new security mandates from the Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration that could be costly to the general aviation airports.”
According to the study, crimes against people at adopter airports declined from five in 2002 to zero in 2004; the same type of crime jumped from three to six at non-adopter airports. Crimes against property dropped from 30 to three at adopter airports; non-adopter airports saw an increase from 45 to 88. Crimes against aircraft dropped from 29 to two at adopter airports but increased from four to 13 at airports that did not adopt Airport Watch recommendations.
The Airport Watch Program includes warning signs for airports, informational literature, and a training video to teach pilots and airport employees how to enhance security at their airports. In a phone call about the study, Benny explained that most of the changes implemented at the adopter airports were simple and relatively inexpensive: providing security awareness training, posting signs encouraging people to report suspicious behavior, or making simple physical security improvements such as locks and additional lighting. He said his sample of Pennsylvania airports may indicate how the Airport Watch Program is working nationwide.