New Private Secuirty Contractor Takes over at JFK, LaGuardia

The guard has changed at the city's two major airports.

Covenant Aviation Security, a private firm, quietly took over security operations at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports on Feb. 1, amNewYork has learned.

The company will provide uniformed guards at perimeters, parking lots and restricted areas. All passenger and cargo screening at New York's airports is conducted by the federal Transportation Security Administration.

Covenant replaces Haynes Security, which the authority had been under pressure to dump after a security breach last year at Kennedy Airport.

The contract with Covenant is for four years, said Port Authority spokesman John McCarthy. Its value was not immediately clear. The Florida-based company also provides baggage and passenger screening at airports in San Francisco, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Tupelo, Miss.

Last November, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General revealed that Covenant employees at the San Francisco airport cheated on undercover tests at passenger checkpoints. Between 2003 and 2004, Covenant employees tracked undercover testers on surveillance cameras and alerted checkpoint screeners that a test was under way, according to the report. A message left with Covenant yesterday was not immediately returned.

Haynes Security, the previous contractor, which provided about 500 uniformed guards at both Queens-based airports, lost its bid to renew its $89-million, four-year contract last year. Its contract expired at the end of January.

Elected officials and union organizers had been pushing for the authority to sever ties with Haynes.

Last March, a disoriented elderly driver was able to evade Haynes' security perimeter and drive his car onto the tarmac at Kennedy Airport.

In an unrelated case, the founder of Haynes pleaded guilty last June to knowingly hiring convicted felons and failing to fingerprint its guards at the Public Service Enterprise Group, or PSEG, a New Jersey Utility. The airports were not involved in that case.

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