Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weird Transportation Security Administration finds: A meat clever, throwing stars -- and lots of guns

Double blade knife found at Detroit Metro Airport. A record 2,212 guns were found by security screeners at U.S. airports in 2014, including 32 at Detroit Metro Airport, according to the Transportation Security Administration. But guns aren't the only type of weapon passengers try to bring onto planes in carry-on luggage or on their person. (Photo: TSA)



A meat cleaver, a sickle, some martial arts throwing stars, a grenade and one very sinister-looking brass knuckle with a razor knife jutting out.

Oh, and don't forget the more than 2,000 guns.

All of these were uncovered in recent months by security screeners at U.S. airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

At Detroit Metro Airport, 32 guns were seized in 2014 from carry-on bags or on the person of passengers trying to board planes, the TSA said. Earlier this month, the brass knuckles with a razor knife jutting out were found during a search of a passenger at the airport in Romulus.

It's forbidden to carry a gun or other type of weapon on an airplane, but the number of people being nabbed has gone up each year since 2008. The No. 1 excuse given by passengers caught going through airport checkpoints with guns was that they forget they had the firearms with them.

TSA security at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas discovered 120 firearms in 2014, the most of any airport in the U.S. Nationally, TSA agents found 2,212 gun at airports last year — an average of six per day.

Detroit's 32 was relatively much lower, but it was more than the 23 firearms discovered at the airport in 2013. Every case resulted in a misdemeanor charge from airport police, said Michael Conway, spokesman with Detroit Metro Airport.

"I can't believe people can be that isolated that they don't know that you can't carry a weapon through passenger screening at an airport," he said. "It just keeps happening and happening."

Any customer caught with a firearm at a checkpoint is arrested, questioned and cited, he added, and nearly every time that person misses his or her flight. The local penalty includes up to a year in jail and fines up to $1,000.

At the federal level, TSA can issue fines from $1,500 to $11,000 for firearms discovered at checkpoints, in prohibited areas or on-board aircraft.

"Whenever we detect a weapon or firearm, we immediately notify local law enforcement," TSA Michigan spokesman Michael McCarthy said. "Metro Airport police takes possession and pulls the passenger aside."

TSA officers in 2014 found an average of six firearms per day in passengers' carry-on bags or on their bodies. More than 80% of the guns were loaded. The total number of firearms discovered at airport security checkpoints rose 22% from 2013, the Department of Homeland Security statistics show.

Travelers with licensed guns are allowed to pack their unloaded firearms into checked bags only — unloaded and declared with the airline.

The top five airports for firearms discoveries in 2014 were Dallas/Fort Worth International, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Denver International Airport.

An additional 1,400 dangerous objects — including stun guns, knives, a sickle, razors and firearm components — were discovered at U.S. airports in 2014.

Among the more unusual finds:

■ An 8.5-inch knife was discovered inside an enchilada a woman traveler was carrying at the Sonoma County Airport in California. The TSA determined that the woman had no malicious intent. She had simply forgotten she had put the knife in with her food.

■ A hand grenade was discovered in a carry-on bag at Los Angeles International Airport. A terminal was closed while the bomb squad took the grenade away to be defused. Five flights were delayed for more than 200 hours, affecting 800 passengers.

■ A traveler was caught concealing small knives inside a combination pen/highlighter at the Philadelphia International Airport.

A list of prohibited items and fines is available on the TSA website. And weapons weren't the only contraband discovered by federal agents.

Customs and Border Protection officers seized more than 23,000 counterfeit goods with a retail value of more than $1.2 billion last year.

The agency seized more than $10 million in counterfeit Beats by Dre headphones, more than $1 million in counterfeit Gibson, Les Paul and other brand-name guitars, and more than $1 million in counterfeit soccer apparel with fake trademarks from popular teams such as Real Madrid, Celtic and Chelsea.

Despite the record number of firearms discovered by TSA, about 99% of airline passengers waited 20 minutes or less in airport security lines last year, the DHS statistics show.

That was partly because of increased enrollment in TSA Precheck and trusted-traveler programs run by Customs and Border Protection. Those programs allow pre-screened, low-risk passengers to go through expedited security screening lanes and customs lines.

More than 40% of airline passengers received some form of expedited screening in 2014.

Story, photo gallery and comments:  http://www.freep.com

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