TSA begins more aggressive pat-downs at local airports

As travelers complain about a new, more aggressive pat-down procedure implemented at airports, security experts say it may be necessary to thwart possible terrorist threats on airplanes.

The Transportation Security Administration is warning police departments that more aggressive pat-downs — that have already started in airports — could result in more backlash from passengers going through security checkpoints. Jay Ratliff, an aviation expert from the area, said old procedures varied across the country and the new protocol replaces five separate kinds of pat-downs previously used.

“Everyone is gong to do the same comprehensive pat-down,” Ratliff told this newspaper. “TSA knew it would not be well-received, which is why they’ve told police to get ready for complaints and calls to 9-1-1.”

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But he also said the full effect of backlash from the new procedure won’t be evident until the height of the spring travel season. When airport crowds begin to influx, more travelers will turn to social media to show their discontent over the new procedure.

“On my way out and on my way back I got stopped for the hand swipe,” said Jayne Stone, a Dayton resident who was traveling out of the Dayton International Airport this week. “I was hoping that maybe because I had a baby strapped to my chest they would let me go into, no none of that, I was just right along with everybody else.”

Dayton International Airport, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and the John Glenn Columbus International Airport will all be impacted by the new mandates. Though TSA officials have not described how extensive the searches will be.

The new procedure comes after a 2015 study from the Department of Homeland Security showed TSA employees missed discovering weapons and explosives more than 95 percent of the time. With record numbers of airline passengers and more people than ever carrying concealed weapons, guns are increasingly showing up in carry-on baggage at the nation’s airports, according to the TSA.

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On just one day last month, TSA officers found 21 firearms in carry-on bags. The haul on Feb. 23 broke a previous one-day record of 18 set in 2014. Of the 79 firearms discovered during that week, 68 were loaded and 21 had a round chambered.

Gun discoveries at the nation’s airports jumped 28 percent between 2015 and last year when 3,391 firearms made it to checkpoints in carry-on bags, an average of more than nine per day. Of those, 2,815 — 83 percent — were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 238 airports; 2 more airports than last year.

TSA officers at Dayton International Airport had already found three guns in carry-ons by July of last year — more than during all of 2015. By the end of 2016, the total reached eight guns – all found loaded, according to TSA records.

» WHAT TO KNOW: Transporting firearms and ammunition on planes

Concealed handgun permits have soared 215 percent to over 14.5 million since 2007, according to a 2016 Crime Prevention Research Center report. No permit is required to carry a concealed handgun in at least 11 states.

TSA officers screened more than 738 million passengers during 2016, an increase of more than 43 million in 2015. Officers also screened 466 million checked bags and 24.2 million airport employees, according to TSA.

Unloaded firearms and ammunition is permitted in checked baggage, but must be declared and secured in a locked case.

Those regulations didn’t prevent 26-year-old Estaban Santiago, a passenger with a checked firearm, from allegedly gunning down nearly a dozen travelers in January at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Five people were killed and six others sustained gunshot injuries. A pastor from Beavercreek was caught in the crossfire and aided the injured.

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Santiago claimed his bag and took the gun from the baggage claim area and went into the bathroom to load the gun, according to reports.

An average of 25 to 50 pounds of prohibited items are found each month at Dayton International, according to the TSA. The list of prohibited items is long, but in general, passengers can’t carry anything that can be passed off or used as a weapon.

The list includes handgun replicas, grenade replicas, anything that could pass as a liquid explosive, and anything that could be used as a weapon — even loaded cap guns, multi-tools with knives, blades and scissors with blades longer than 4 inches.


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