In 2009, seeking to understand Australian aviation industry capability to detect and deter terrorist attack planning activities at airports, a review was commissioned by the Office of Transport Security (OTS). This review, conducted by UK consultant Dr Kevin O'Brien, identified a number of shortfalls in the detection and resolution of suspicious activity and highlighted the need to improve security culture across the aviation sector. A strategy selected from Dr O'Brien's report was the concept of Airport Watch – a security awareness program (involving airport stakeholders) to identify and resolve suspicious activity in real time.
In April 2010, OTS conducted a five week trial of Airport Watch in partnership with Adelaide Airport Ltd and the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The trial was based on the existing well known 'Neighbourhood Watch' program, leveraging the intrinsic brand value inherent in that program and applying it to an Aviation security environment. This trial was considered successful as it increased the level of security awareness of aviation industry staff and improved the quality of reporting of this type to the AFP. Twenty six recommendations resulted from this trial, one of which was to develop an Airport Watch national best practice framework to guide the Australian aviation sector to identify, report and resolve suspicious activity. In December 2010 this recommendation was supported by Government. The Minister for Infrastructure and transport and Minister for Home Affairs agreed the AFP would take the lead with support from the OTS in the development and implementation of Airport Watch at all major airports.
The Airport Watch program is similar in principle to Neighbourhood Watch programs currently in place in all jurisdictions. Airport Watch will engage the airport community as the 'eyes and ears' within the aviation stream to increase reporting of suspicious activity within airports and the sector. The intelligence generated by suspicious activity reporting is paramount to deterrence, detection and resolution of terrorist attacks or criminal activities. This community approach focuses not only on identifying suspicious activity, but resolving it on a real time response basis.
Airport Watch is a community based concept that requires local direction in accordance with the specific requirements of each airport location. The key to an effective and sustainable community based Airport Watch program is the active engagement and participation by businesses and staff within the aviation stream.
Airport Watch is central to both regulated aviation preventive security and to law enforcement. Through information sharing, as well as analysis and investigations, it enhances Australia's aviation preventive security regime.
Read the Airport Watch media release
See it, hear it, report it - 131 AFP