ANCHORAGE Municipality will spend $US4 million on a new digital video surveillance solution linked by fibre optics after the current analogue system failed to produce face recognition during a prolonged attack on aircraft at the site. 

Last month, vandals slashed the tyres of 87 aircraft at Merrill Field, causing $US200,000 in damage – plane tyres are $2000-3000 each. However, the only video evidence produced of the crime by the existing analogue CCTV solution was dark and blurry images that provided no useful identification.

“Seeing the photos that were released afterwards, I was kind of concerned that there’s cameras up, but there wasn’t high enough quality images for anything to be done,” said Bob Thompson, owner of an aircraft at Merrill Field.


The mysteriously attired suspect could not be identified using footage from the existing CCTV system.

Anchorage detectives reviewed 7 hours of footage from each of the more than 55 cameras positioned around the airport but were unable to identify the perpetrator.

Merrill Field covers 436 acres and has 3 runways. Opened in 1930, the airfield is the primary field for private wheel equipped aircraft in summer and for ski equipped aircraft in the winter. It’s a busy airport, even though most aircraft are privately owned. There are 844 aircraft based at Merrill, including 786 single engine, 41 multi-engine, 16 helicopters and one glider. There are around 130,000 flights in and out of the airfield annually. 

Lighting, camera placement, the state of camera housing windows and overall camera numbers across the huge site are as likely to have contributed to the system’s inability to assist investigators as resolution. ♦