More than 150 wanted criminals last year unsuccessfully sought to gain special access to Salt Lake City International Airport's secure areas when they failed comprehensive background checks.
In all, airport police reported that they busted more than 150 people with outstanding warrants. Police believe most of those arrested were people trying to get jobs or who already worked at the airport in various capacities that require restricted access, according to crime statistics released by the airport in response to a public records request. Most of the rest of those with warrants were discovered during police officers' traffic enforcement efforts on airport grounds, said Steve Marlovits, airport chief of police.
Outstanding warrants accounted for about 23 percent of all crimes reported at the airport in 2011, according to data released in response to the records request.
Most of the employee warrants were typically discovered during mandatory criminal background checks, said Connie Proctor, airport security coordinator.
An estimated 13,000 people ranging from support staff to TSA to restaurant employees are active badge holders with different levels of airport clearance. Each of those individuals is typically required under law to undergo either an annual or biennial criminal background check, depending on their position, in order to achieve or maintain access to restricted areas, Proctor said.
"It's a very secure environment," Proctor said.
Last year, the airport served an estimated 20 million passengers with more than 350,000 flights, making it the 26th busiest passenger airport in the country and 64th busiest in the world, said spokeswoman Barbara Gann.
Proctor said security has intensified in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks more than a decade ago.
Every person is warned that they need to pass a background check, but "some of these people still show up," Proctor said.
"Many people who have warrants think they'll disappear," Marlovits said.
Some of the warrants are for minor scrapes with the law such as unresolved traffic citations, but others can be more serious.
It if it's a minor charge, the airport typically pulls the employees aside and tells them they need to take care of a warrant before proceeding. If it's more serious, the person is arrested on the spot, Marlovits said.
About the story
This is one of a series of occasional stories in which The Salt Lake Tribune will examine crime across the Salt Lake Valley through the lens of mapping.
The data used for this Tribune analysis consists of crimes that have been verified and handled by the Salt Lake City International Airport police.