Like a Cat on Hot Bricks: the Detection of Anomalous Behavior in Airports

  • María Carmen Feijoo-FernándezEmail author
  • Lucía Halty
  • Andrés Sotoca-Plaza


Airports are critical infrastructures that require special protection. Public spaces are considered vulnerable areas and a possible target for general crime as well as terrorism. Because of the latest terrorist attacks which targeted vulnerable areas in airports, it is essential to test proactive methods capable of helping to detect potential threats. In this context, there are also other illicit activities closely related to civil air transport, which must also be addressed. First, we propose a theoretical framework to explain the presence and detection of anomalous behaviors. Therefore, in this research, we start by analyzing the behavior of airport users (N = 352) in terms of “patterns of movement,” “patterns of communication,” indicators activated by the autonomic nervous system, and object adaptors. The results show significant differences in both movement and communication patterns between those who commit illegal acts and those who do not. No significant differences were found related to indicators coming from the autonomous nervous system or the object adaptors. Six significant behaviors account for the 49% of the variance in those who commit illegal activities. Three significant behaviors account for the 19% of the variance in those who possess background records.


Behavior detection Criminal activities Pattern of movement Pattern of communication Anomalous behavior Airports 



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Copyright information

© Society for Police and Criminal Psychology 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Guardia Civil, Madrid Airport Unit (Ministry of Interior) Head of Behavior DetectionAdolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas AirportMadridSpain
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of ComillasMadridSpain
  3. 3.Guardia Civil, Ministry of Interior, Criminal Behavior Analysis Section, Criminal Intelligence UnitPríncipe de VergaraMadridSpain

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