LOS ANGELES — Two officers, each carrying M-16 assault rifles and 9mm pistols at their sides, stood silently on guard outside a departure gate at Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday, where enhanced security measures were put in place after the morning's bombings in Brussels. In addition to these officers, who serve as part of the Emergency Services Unit, the airport's version of a SWAT team, there were bomb-sniffing dogs, random vehicle checks and plainclothes police officers patrolling the airport, police said.
"We have a range of deployments spread out across the airport," Sgt. Belinda Joseph of the Los Angeles Airport Police said in an interview, noting that there is no specific threat to LAX. Joseph declined to offer the exact number of additional officers that have been deployed around the airport, but said that officers were placed, strategically, to be "very visible."
On Tuesday, two explosions detonated at the Brussels International Airport, followed by an explosion at a city metro station, killing at least 30 people and wounding scores more, according to the most recent news reports. When word of the attacks reached Los Angeles, which is eight hours behind Brussels, Joseph said her staff met immediately and decided to increase the visibility of security at the airport, which is the second-busiest in the country.
"When anything like that comes out, we're going to get together and talk [about the plan]," she said. "It doesn't matter what time." Joseph added that the security at the airport actually begins before travelers enter the area. On Tuesday, for instance, airport police began executing "random vehicle inspections around in the surrounding areas."
On Tuesday morning, the Los Angeles County sheriff's transit police said it was increasing security in the city's train and bus stations as well, following the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Similar protocols were being issued in other cities in the United States, including New York and Washington.
Inside the terminals of LAX, the scene looked normal: Travelers hurried to check in to their flights, they kissed loved ones goodbye, and grudgingly waited on security lines. But on this day, about a dozen news trucks assembled outside the Tom Bradley International Departure gate.
LAX, in fact, has been repeatedly targeted by terrorists in the past. "The deadly terrorist bombing at the Brussels Airport is a grim reminder of how Los Angeles' own airport has been targeted by terrorism over the years," noted Shelby Grad and Richard Winton of the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
The article pointed to several attacks, including the 1974 bombing at the airport, which killed 36 people. Another attack occurred in 2002, when a lone gunman killed two people working at the gate for El Al, the Israeli airline, before being shot to death by a security guard.
In a tweet, the Los Angeles airport police cautioned that, while there was no specific threat to the airport, people sould remain on alert. "Safety is everyone's responsibility," L.A. Airport PD tweeted. "Report any suspicious activity or items to the police."