CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Travelers to Charlotte Douglas International Airport should start seeing more police officers and marked patrol cars as part of an effort to boost security at the facility.
The increased visibility comes as the police officers who used to report to airport officials are now part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The consolidation was announced in November, but became official on Saturday.
Authorities have not said exactly how many police officers will be patrolling at the airport. Forty officers had been working at the facility, and officials have said they are adding more.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Lt. Dave Moorefield said changes at the airport will include more police officers at security gates and making checks along the airport’s perimeter. Officers already patrol those areas now, he said, but they’ll be even more visible.
In the future, Moorefield said people also will see more officers at the airport from CMPD specialized units such as its bike and motorcycle patrols.
“We’re equipped to enhance the safety of not only the folks that work out at the airport, but (to) enhance the safety of the traveling public,” Moorefield said.
City and police officials have said there have been talks for years about how best to handle security at the airport. CMPD has managed and trained the police officers who work there, but they reported to the airport.
Officials have said the merger of security to the police department was not prompted by any single event.
But concerns about airport security were highlighted last year in a report on the stowaway of a high school student. Delvonte Tisdale breached airport security and climbed into the wheel well of a Boston-bound plane in 2010. His body fell from the plane as its landing gear was lowered on approach to the city.
A CMPD report found that police staffing at Charlotte Douglas ranked next to last when compared with eight comparable airports. It recommended, among other things, adding more staff. The airport also made changes such as improving fencing along its 19-mile perimeter.
In November, CMPD Deputy Chief Kerr Putney said the review played a part in the consolidation of airport security.
“There was no way to deny that that incident was a catalyst for a lot of discussions and concerns,” Putney told the Observer then. “This is the path forward.”
CMPD won’t be the only law enforcement agency at the airport. Workers from the Transportation Security Administration, who handle security checkpoints, will remain there and private security employees also have been there in the past.
On Saturday, Moorefield said the transition to the consolidated police department had begun that morning. He said the various security enhancements would be added over time, but there is no hard deadline at this point on when the consolidation will be complete.
Moorefield also said that while CMPD will now be the local law enforcement entity at the airport, police officials have been working closely with Aviation Director Jerry Orr and his staff.