Security at Jacksonville airport parking garage questioned


People parking in the Jacksonville International Airport garage Monday said they never see police in the garage.

"I have not seen anyone patrolling the area or any kind of car patrolling the area, but my vehicle stays here weekly, and I have not had any kind of a problem," traveler Paul Benoit said.

Several sources inside the airport told Channel 4 there are big problems with airport security and the parking garage. They pointed to car break-ins and people who stalk the area looking for easy targets.

The garage is also a big concern for the family of 83-year-old Charles Soukup, who was killed near the airport two weeks ago. Police believe he may have been abducted in the garage after renting a car to go home to Gainesville. Three people have since been charged with murder in his death.

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photos of Shanda Merritt, Raymond Austin and Corey Harrington

Chuck Soukup, Charles' son, said he's angry when he hears things about the security at the airport.

"All of us have been in that parking garage. It's dark," he said.

During one 30-minute span around midday Monday, only one security guard was seen coming by to check the second level of the parking garage. Police said Soukup was carjacked about 11 a.m.

The garage does have emergency buttons that travelers can press for help if they have a problem.

There are surveillance cameras inside the garage, but sources told Channel 4 the cameras present some problems. For instance, one camera is low enough to be tampered with by anyone who wants to pull the plug and disable it, while other cameras have wiring issues.div

Police reports from the airport about crimes in the garage were still not available Monday, but are expected to be released Tuesday, along with a study conducted last year on Jacksonville airport security.

Sources told Channel 4 that Sederick Rivers, the former airport police chief, tried to use that study to get the airport authority to hire more officers. He was shut down by the board and was soon replaced, sources said.

Rivers had no comment Monday and said he wanted to put it all behind him, something the Soukup family said it wishes it could do. They plan to hire an attorney to find out what happened to their father.

"We pay our taxes for this protection, and you can't even rent a car at the airport and be killed five minutes from the airport," Chuck Soukup said. "Something is wrong there."

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