A bipartisan bill has been introduced in the USA that would enable airports to use federal funds for security measures at their parking lots.
Colorado congresswoman Yadira Caraveo introduced the Securing Airport Facilities for Enhanced Parking Act, or the SAFE Parking Act, with representative Ken Buck. If passed, airports would be able to use Airport Infrastructure Program (AIP) funds to combat car theft.
The AIP is administered by the Federal Aviation Administration and provides federal grants to airports for planning and development of a wide array of projects, but airports currently cannot use these grants to upgrade security at their parking lots.
According to the Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority, there were more than 32,000 vehicles reported stolen in Colorado in 2023. Denver International Airport (DEN) was a hot spot, reaching 946 car thefts.
DEN is not alone in seeing a spike in car theft, with airports across the country from Portland to Dallas seeing a similar trend. However, there is currently no federal funding that airports can access to upgrade security at lots.
The SAFE Parking Act would expand the AIP through December 31, 2025, to include safety measures at airport parking lots. These measures include CCTV systems, physical barriers, alarm systems, analytical tools to be developed in partnership with law enforcement to identify criminal trends, and any other measure that the Secretary of Transportation determines to be appropriate.
The bill would also direct the US Government Accountability Office to provide the relevant committees of jurisdiction with a report on how the funds provided under this program are used and recommendations for improving this program no later than December 31, 2025.
While they wait for legislation to help confront rising car theft, some airports are taking action themselves. On January 18, DEN announced that its various strategies helped drastically reduce auto thefts over the last two months of 2023.
In November 2023, vehicle thefts reduced to 11, down from 39 in November 2022 and 61 in October 2023. The busy holiday travel season for the month of December saw 10 car thefts. Overall, vehicle theft at DEN is trending down significantly from the peak during the summer months.
To achieve this, the airport has installed 11 additional HALO cameras in the East and West Economy parking lots as well as in the Pikes Peak lot, bringing the total to 15 HALO cameras across these three lots and increasing security surveillance by 75%. The presence of security officers has also increased, and new technology has been installed that alerts security personnel when stolen vehicles enter key locations on airport property.