Airport Security, Terrorism and Mega Events: how far can and should we go?
The September 11th terrorist attacks reminded the world of something it appeared to have forgotten: the importance of commercial aviation as a terrorism target. There is no doubt that over the last 50 years commercial air travel has been a favorite target of terrorists, a fact that has made airports a key focus for anti-terrorism policies and measures. With Brazil hosting two of the world’s largest sporting events – the football World Cup and the 2016 Olympic games – the eyes of the world are focused on the country’s security preparations for such events. Perhaps for the first time, the organs responsible for public safety have to consider the subject of national level security seriously, and considerable challenges lie ahead. The recent mass street demonstrations, many of which ended in violence, tensions in the Middle East, economic crises and a lack of public confidence in government add to the risk factors to be considered. A potential increase in security measures at airports does not just represent a cost in terms of public finances, but also has implications in terms of greater restraints and limitations on individual liberties, which in turn may have a political price for the government. Finding a balance between costs, risks and possible benefits is one of the key challenges related to the choice of necessary, practical and suitable security measures for different social, economic and political contexts. The aim of the present article, which is based on a survey undertaken in an international airport, is to evaluate the level of tolerance of passengers in relation to stricter security procedures at Brazilian airports, especially during major events, as well as evaluating the perceived risk of a terrorist attack during the events. The intention is to show that, although the perceived risk of a terrorist attack among the public may be low, the great majority of passengers are in favor of increased airport security during such events. In doing so it is hoped that support may be provided for the difficult task of making decisions based on complex factors such as costs, risks and potential benefits.
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