Bill would create restricted zones at N.J. airports

Two legislators said they want to make it a crime to enter restricted areas at New Jersey airports. Assemblywoman Grace Spencer (D-Newark) and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (D-Newark) said they will introduce legislation to address a flaw in state law that became apparent earlier this month when Newark Liberty International Airport was shut down after a Rutgers graduate student slipped under a security ribbon and into a restricted area.

Haisong Jiang, a 28-year-old Piscataway resident, is scheduled to appear in Newark Municipal Court on a disorderly persons change.  He faces thirty days in jail and a $500 fine.

 “We know all too well that security threats exist, so obviously we need more than the threat of disorderly persons charge for those who violate basic airport security rules,” Spencer said. “It’s puzzling that someone who violates airport security and disrupts national air travel and the lives of thousands of people is facing the same charge as someone who would, for example, use offensive language in public. Our law clearly needs updating.”

The Spencer/Coutinho bill would establish the crime of entering into restricted airport property in violation of federal security requirements, and set two restricted areas on public airports: a sterile passenger holding area, and an operational area.  Violation would be a fourth degree crime carrying an eighteen month prison term and a $10,000 fine.

 “It’s hard to believe that someone who breaches airport security may simply get what amounts to just a slap on the wrist,” Coutinho said. “Clearly, this is an area of our law that needs to be stricter to send a message that airport security rules meant to protect the public and keep airport travel orderly cannot be taken lightly. We’ve been in a new day and age since 9/11 and our state laws must accurately reflect that reality.”

Bill would create restricted zones at N.J. airports