Salt Lake City UT May 25 2017 Among airport travelers there can be a lot of hurrying, frayed nerves, and drinking. Combined, it doesn't always add up to folks being on their best behavior.
Nationally, there have been some high-profile encounters between airport cops and travelers in recent weeks. We wanted to know, what is keeping police at Salt Lake International Airport busy.
Through a public records request, Get Gephardt received the call logs for the airport's police department and the numbers show it’s a busy group.
In the past two years, cops have been dispatched to a potential crime 44,977 times; more than 60 times per day.
"Everybody works very hard every day to make sure that we have the safest transit you can have coming through your airport," said airport police chief Craig Vargo.
He said his force needs to always be on its toes because airports have become a high-profile place to target or threaten, and Salt Lake International is no exception.
There have been 14 bomb threats in two years at the airport, records show. When they are called in, Vargo said they jump into action to determine the threats validity.
"The airport has an emergency action plan for just about everything," Vargo said.
According to the logs, most of what these cops deal with is the same types of crimes you might see in a neighborhood, like speeding, fighting or stealing, but they’ve seen some objectively unique things as well.
For example, people flashing lasers at cockpits has been reported 238 times. Last year, somebody flew a drone right next to a plane. Also, police were called eight times saying a plane was about to hijacked.
Vargo said he can only recall one hijacking threat that turned out to be legitimate.
"We did have somebody that we had arrested that had carjacked a car, said his intent was to hijack a plane, we actually caught him right at the terminal front," Vargo said.
Honeymooners should also beware: they aren't allowed to start 'celebrating' early, say in an airport bathroom. There were 19 calls to airport police accusing people of violating "public morals."
"It’s usually two consenting adults doing things they probably shouldn't have that got viewed."
Many calls are referred to either the the FAA or the TSA. Crimes that do fall into the Airport PD's jurisdiction are screened by Salt Lake City prosecutors.
Vargo says one of the most unique things about their beat doesn't show up in the call logs. He says it’s the way the entire community is aware of the security issues an airport faces. Travelers are quickly reporting crimes, and that goes a long way to keeping everyone safe, he says.
"We're not a soft target. We are vulnerable, but we're not a soft target."