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Osama bin Laden dead: Southern California airports on heightened alert

May 02, 2011|By Chris Erskine | Los Angeles Times
  • A TSA agent checks a passenger's luggage Monday at the Orlando, Fla., airport. Across the U.S., airports tightened security after the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces.
A TSA agent checks a passenger's luggage Monday at the Orlando, Fla.,… (Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images )

Travelers at LAX were not experiencing unusual delays early Monday as heightened security measures went into effect there and at airports around the world after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden. Security checkpoints were running at their typical Monday rates, as were U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations, said LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles.

Nico Melendez, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, also said it appeared to be Monday morning business as usual. 

In a statement, Los Angeles Airport Police Chief George Centeno encouraged the public to report any suspicious activity to the police by calling (310) 646-7911.

LAX, Ontario International and Van Nuys airports were on heightened alert as of Sunday night, said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, which operates the airports.  Officials would not elaborate on what that means to travelers, but LAX has one of the nation’s biggest anti-terrorist operations, visible and invisible. Here's what you may see with the new alert:

* More checkpoints by airport police as travelers enter the central terminal area, as well as a more visible presence of officers overall. LAX is staffed by its own department, but the LAPD has a post there and coordinates additional officers as needed.

* Bomb-sniffing dogs will be making the rounds of passenger baggage at airport curbs and within the terminals themselves.

* Random gate screenings are likely to  occur more frequently, and more detection officers can be expected to be on duty.

* At times of heightened security, it’s common to see LAX police on foot patrol in military gear and carrying automatic weapons.

In addition, there are hundreds of security cameras in all corners of the airport. Monitors in the LAX Airport Response and Coordination Center allow officers to grab still photos off the security cameras, zoom in on suspicious activity or send it out to other law enforcement agencies -- including the FBI -- that also monitor the airport.

This is one of the first major tests of the coordination center, which recently opened. The center operates like a war room, where the various agencies involved with the airport -- TSA, FAA, airport operations, police -- work side by side. Previously, the departments had been scattered around the airport.

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