Every day, Transportation Security Officers interact with nearly two million travelers across the United States with a single goal in mind – ensuring the safety of the traveling public.
TSA had a busy year in 2013, screening 638,705,790 passengers in 2013 (over 1,700,000 per day), which is 1,123,668 more passengers than last year.
Sadly, this year marked the first incident where a TSA officer, Gerardo I. Hernandez, was killed in the line of duty at Los Angeles International Airport.
In many ways, Transportation Security Officers are the public face of our nation’s security. It is difficult work, requiring patience, stamina, and great attention to detail. It requires extensive training and constant vigilance. This year’s tragic incident reminds us that being on the frontline also comes with a great risk. It is a risk that the men and women of TSA undertake willingly knowing that in doing so they are serving a higher cause, and a noble one – protecting the men and women of the United States every day.
We wanted to share with you examples of the continued vigilance of TSA officers in protecting our nation’s transportation systems, including some of the most unusual items TSA caught at the checkpoints this year.
1,813 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging nearly five firearms per day. Of those, 1,477 (81%) were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 205 airports with Atlanta (ATL) on top of the list for the most firearms intercepted (111) in 2013.
There was a 16.5% increase (257) in firearm discoveries from last year’s total of 1,556.
Top Five Airports for Gun Catches in 2013
- (ATL) - 111 Guns Discovered
- (DFW) - 96 Guns Discovered
- (IAH) - 68 Guns Discovered
- (PHX) - 66 Guns Discovered
- (DEN) - 51 Guns Discovered
Here are a few of the more notable firearm incidents:
A loaded .380 pistol with eight rounds was discovered on the lower left leg of a passenger at Bradley Hartford (BDL) after the weapon alarmed the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).
A loaded .45 caliber pistol with six rounds and one chambered was discovered strapped to the ankle of a Pittsburgh (PIT) passenger during a pat-down after he had opted out of AIT.
A .25 caliber firearm loaded with 10 rounds was discovered hidden under the lining of a carry-on bag at Cedar Rapids (CID).
A passenger at Salt Lake City (SLC) received a pat-down after an anomaly was detected during advanced imaging technology screening.
During the pat-down, officers discovered a fully loaded .22 caliber firearm inside his boot.
Using imaging technology, a .380 pistol loaded with seven rounds and one chambered was discovered in the pocket of a passenger at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW).While resolving an alarm on checked baggage, officers at Boston Logan (BOS) discovered a fully disassembled 30-30 rifle concealed within the lining of the bag and taped to the straps. Police responded and ran a check on the serial number of the rifle, revealing that it had been stolen.
In what was believed to be an attempt to avoid declaring his firearms, a passenger at Houston (IAH) wrapped two guns in newspaper and placed them in a box of detergent powder in his checked baggage.
Seven undeclared firearms were found concealed in a checked toolbox at Miami (MIA).
A shotgun was discovered in a checked golf bag at Detroit (DTW).
An unloaded .45 caliber pistol and four magazines were hidden in a cassette deck in checked baggage.
Left to Right: Unassembled Rifle (BOS), Shotgun in Golf Bag (DTW), Seven Firearms in Toolbox (MIA), Guns In Detergent (IAH)
In addition to firearms discovered this year, there were many unsafe items that passengers attempted to travel with this year including:
A live blasting cap was discovered along with an M60 fuse lighter in a passenger’s checked bag at the Manhattan Regional Airport (MHK) in Kansas.
Over nine ounces of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Cleveland (CLE).
A camping stove fuel bottle with fuel was discovered in a passenger’s carry-on bag at San Francisco (SFO).
After causing an alarm in checked baggage, Officers found a 3.2 ounce flask of black powder, 22 feet of fuse, a large empty CO2 cartridge, and miscellaneous ammunition in a passenger’s bag at Anchorage (ANC).
While resolving an alarm in a checked bag at Honolulu (HNL), a TSA officer discovered two one-pound cans of black powder.
Left - Right / Top - Bottom: Black Powder & Fuse (ANC), Two Pounds of Black Powder (HNL), Nine Ounces of Black Powder (CLE), and Camping Stove Fuel (SFO)
TSA officers also find inert items that look very real. The problem with these types of items is that we don’t know if they are real, toys or replicas until we call out the explosive experts. Inert items can lead to disruption, closed terminals and checkpoints, which often result in canceled or delayed flights. Here are some of the more interesting inert items we’ve found so far this year:
After alarming in checked baggage, our officers discovered The vest was a training aid used by an explosives instructor.
A passenger at Norfolk (ORF) had six inert pressure plates, 50 inert initiators, an inert land mine, inert explosives, and two initiation systems in the his bag.
An inert Claymore mine was discovered in a checked bag at San Jose (SJC).
An inert bandolier line charge was discovered after it alarmed in checked baggage at Norfolk (ORF). Seven inert blasting caps were discovered in checked baggage at Greenbrier County Airport (LWB). Electricdetonators and a blockof inert C4 with duct tape and wires protruding were discovered in two separate incidents at Seattle (SEA) in checked baggage.
A gag retirement gift designed to look like an improvisedexplosive device was discovered on the X-ray at St. Petersburg / Clearwater (PIE). Two inert C4 demolition explosives were discovered in the carry-on bag of a passenger at Honolulu (HNL).An inert Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) training kit was discovered at Norfolk (ORF).
Two battery-charged initiators were discovered in a carry-on bag at Minneapolis (MSP).
136 inert/novelty/replica grenades were discovered this year at TSA checkpointsand checked baggage locations.
Left - Right / Top - Bottom: Battery Charged Initiator (MSP), IED Training Kit (ORD), Inert Blasting Caps (LWB), Inert C-4 (HNL), Gag Gift (TPA)
Live Smoke, Stun, and Incendiary Devices:
A live smoke grenade was discovered in checked baggage at Washington Dulles (IAD).
A 3-ounce Can of CS Teargas was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlantic City (ACY).A passenger at Houston Hobby (HOU)had a flare gun and six loose flares in his carry-on bag. 562 stun guns were discovered in carry-on bags in 2013.
Left - Right: Smoke and Flare Canisters (PHX), Flare Gun (MDW), Teargas (ACY), Flare (JNU), Smoke Grenades (PWM)>Here are a few of the more notable knife incidents:
A non-metallic dagger was discovered on a passenger at Salt Lake City (SLC) after he alarmed Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). During the pat-down, the dagger was found hanging by fishing line around his neck and under his shirt.
Officers at Des Moines (DSM) discovered an 8-inch non-metallic tactical spike in a passenger’s sock after he alarmed Advanced Imaging Technology.
A knife was discovered concealed in the lower back area of a passenger who alarmed the advanced imaging technology at Burbank (BUR).
The year also provided the need for travelers to surrender a few odd items:
While searching clay pots in a checked baggage location at Fort Lauderdale (FLL), our officers discovered human skull fragments! While the fragments weren’t a security threat, they did slow screening down a bit since the area quickly became a crime scene!
A mace was discovered in a carry-on bag at Chicago Midway (MDW). This wasn’t a plastic mace; it was solid wood and metal.
A traveler’s checked bag blew open with threefoot high flames and smoke at Atlantic City (ACY) . The cause? A large leaking can of hairspray was ignited by the spark of a lighter when the bag was loaded onto the rollers. No one was injured.
Mace (ACY)There were many instances last year where travelers attempted to hide items, or the items they packed were disguised to look like other items. Our officers regularly find sword canes, credit card knives, belt buckle knives, comb/brush knives, knives hidden in shoes, knives hidden in thermoses, and knives hidden under the bag lining near the handle mechanism. But, here are a few of the instances that stood out:
A knife concealed within an ink pen was discovered at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).
A multi-tool was discovered inside a computer hard drive at Birmingham (BHM).
A knife was sewn into the lining of a bag at Dulles (IAD).
A bladed multi-tool was found in a package of socks at Albuquerque (ABQ).
Nine rounds of .45 caliber ammunition were found in the pull-handle of a carry-bag at Norfolk (ORF).Pepper spray designed to look like a lipstick case was discovered in Phoenix (PHX). A stun gun concealed in a cane was discovered at Los Angeles (LAX).
A knife was found in a toothbrush holder at Lihue (LIH).A knife was discovered in the battery compartment of a laptop computer at Oakland (OAK).A knife was discovered inside a pillow at Midland (MAF).
A lipstick knife was discovered at San Antonio (SAT). A knife was discovered inside a passenger’s knee brace at Houston (IAH).Two kitchen knives were discovered in an automotive air filter box wrapped in plastic with the air filter at Houston Intercontinental (IAH).An 8-inch knife and a 6-inch knife were detected wrapped in plastic bags under a false bottom in a carry-on bag at Guam (GUM).A stun gun disguised to look like lipstick was discovered at St. Louis (STL).
Left to Right / Top to Bottom: Cigarette Pack Stun Gun (MCO), Brush Dagger(OGG), Knives Concealed in Air Filter (IAH), Credit Card Knife (ABQ), Lipstick Knife (SAT), Comb Knife (DTW), Knife in Shoe (IAD), Belt Buckle Knife (EWR), Stun Gun Cell Phone (JAN), Comb Knife (CHS), Lip Stick Stun Gun (LAS), Key Knife (IAD), Razor Concealed in Cell Phone (TPA), Credit Card Knife (BWI), Lipstick Stun Gun (STL), Stun Gun Cell Phone (LAX), Knife in Shoe (SAN), Cell Phone Stun Gun (DEN).
Miscellaneous Items - Left to Right / Top to Bottom: Compound Bow in Carry-on (PHX), Finger Spikes (BHM), Bang Stick (KOA), BB Machine Gun (EWR), Novelty Bomb (PHX), Stun Knuckles (DEN), Gun Clock (SEA).
You can also read more about important steps TSA has taken to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to security, and towards a more risk-based security posture in our year-end blog post, TSA Reflects on 2013.
TSA Blog Team
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