A Maryland Transportation Authority police officer drove his unmarked sport-utility vehicle through parking lots, climbing onto rooftops and peering down access roads that wind through wooded areas, says the Washington Post. He was looking for threats from shoulder-fired missiles around Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Said the officer: “If we do this randomly and every so often, they are not going to be able to pattern police movements. I like to be a little smarter than them, a little faster than they are.”
The U.S. government says shoulder-fired missiles have been used in at least 36 attacks on civilian aircraft in the past three decades, all overseas. The threat worries police and intelligence officials because many missiles are on the black market and many terrorist groups have them. Authorities estimate that terrorist organizations have several hundred to several thousand shoulder-fired missiles, which can cost as little as $5,000. The government hopes to develop detection systems that would cost about $1 million each for installation on thousands of jetliners. Widespread deployment of such devices on the U.S. commercial fleet would probably take at least a decade. In the meantime, police have filled the gap. Most departments began patrols after two missiles barely missed an Israeli jetliner taking off in Kenya in 2002.