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Police investigate vandalism of three planes at Van Nuys Airport

Map shows approximate location of Van Nuys Airport.

Map shows approximate location of Van Nuys Airport.

(Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles airport police are investigating the vandalism of three aircraft and at least one vehicle at Van Nuys Airport, the latest in a series of security breaches at the airfield.

The latest incident occurred about 9:20 p.m. April 2, when a man scaled the perimeter fence and made his way to the airplanes. Authorities say the man tore off antennas and wires from the planes and tore a side mirror from a vehicle parked near a hangar.

“The extent of the damage is unknown at this time,” Sgt. Belinda Joseph said in a written statement.

After damaging the planes and vehicle, the man climbed over the fence in the area of Havenhurst Avenue and Valerio Street and fled.

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Police had no other details. They also did not respond to questions about why it look almost a week for the incident to be reported.

This is the third time since December that there has been a security breach at the airport and airplanes have been damaged.

Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Police Union, said Saturday’s incident underscores the need for more police officers at the airport as well as improving security there.

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“This is an ongoing problem,” McClain said. “This is something we raised to both our current chief and new appointed assistant chief: Our staffing is down.”

The airport covers more than 700 acres and handles more than 217,000 takeoffs and landings annually, according to the airport’s website.

Other than at some of the hangars, the airfield doesn’t have surveillance cameras, and until recently, the fence did not have barbed wiring to prevent people from climbing over it.

Two weeks ago, police say Jesus Ortega, 45, crashed his car through a gate on the east side of the airport. Ortega drove across runways, stopped and put his vehicle in reverse, backing into a small single-engine plane.

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At least one plane was forced to divert during the chase. Ortega was later booked on suspicion of two felony vandalism counts and one of trespassing onto an airfield.

McClain said the two officers patrolling the airport that day had to rely on LAPD officers to book Ortega because airport police were understaffed.

Last December, taggers cut a hole on the airport fence and scrawled graffiti on three corporate jets parked near the end of the runway. The taggers scribbled their monikers on the planes.

In July 2013, a Learjet sustained as much as $100,000 in damage at the airport when it was spray-painted with the word “flame” and “R.I.P.”

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