Despite repeated warnings, airline passengers are still packing knives, scissors and even box cutters in their luggage and attempting to bring them on planes, federal security officials said yesterday during a visit to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Since February last year, when the Transportation Security Agency took over security at airport checkpoints, screeners have found millions of knives, blades and other sharp cutting objects in travelers' carry-on bags -- some of them carried inadvertently, others concealed in prosthetic legs, teddy bears and statues.
TSA officials are stopping at various airports around the country to show the public what they're finding at each airport in hopes of discouraging passengers from carrying the items.
Yesterday they were at BWI's international pier, where staff displayed nine boxes of scissors next to an array of toy guns, propane lighters and bottle rockets. The items amounted to four days' worth of contraband taken from passengers.
"Quite frankly, it's alarming," said TSA spokeswoman Chris Rhatigan. "We don't think passengers are prepared to travel. We think they've become complacent, and unintentionally so."
Between January and July, authorities arrested 21 people at BWI in connection with banned items. In Hartford, Conn., a man was arrested for trying to hide a 9-inch knife in his prosthetic leg. In Boston, a man tried to conceal two undeclared handguns by taping them between pans.
But TSA officials say most items come from law-abiding citizens who arrive at the checkpoint unaware that their Swiss Army knives or sewing scissors are still in their purse. They have three options -- take the items back to their car, try to put them in checked luggage or express-mail them to their homes, if the airport offers such a service, which BWI does.
Passengers who aren't sure what's allowed on planes can check the TSA's Web site at www.tsatraveltips.us.