May 27, 2008
Digg Del.icio.us Facebook Fark Google Newsvine Reddit Yahoo Print Reprints Post comment Text size: WINDSOR LOCKS — - The Transportation Security Administration has added three new security features at Bradley International Airport since the start of 2008.
On a normal trip to the airport in Windsor Locks, you'll most likely never notice them, but that's the way the federal agency wants it.
In fact, you could go through as many as 20 distinct layers of security each time you get onto an airplane without realizing it, TSA Federal Security Director Peter J. Boynton said.
"If we don't tell you, you might not know they're there," Boynton said.
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Three New Measures
Protecting the traveling public, he said, starts from the moment you buy an airline ticket. Although most people picture airport security as a checkpoint where you have to take off your shoes, it goes far beyond just having visible officers to ensure the safety of the traveler and the country.
In January, TSA started stationing behavior detection officers in each terminal. They are trained to identify a possible security threat, based on physiological signs a person may exhibit that could be an indicator that something is wrong.
A person who might appear nervous or is exhibiting signs of stress would be flagged for additional screening at the checkpoints. These officers will be dressed like a TSA officer.
"These officers are trained to simply look at the traveling public," Boynton said.
In February, TSA officers took over the task of checking travel documents, which airline workers used to do. Officers might use black lights or magnifying glasses to examine documents to make sure they aren't forged.
In March, an additional bomb appraisal officer was added to the airport staff, and another is expected to be added soon. These officers are trained to evaluate any suspicious items that officers working at the X-ray machines spot.
Greg Principato, president of Airports Council International's North America division, said the new features will enhance security without adding time or inconvenience to the existing screening process.
He said these measures are in place at most North American airports.
In the near future, Bradley will be looking to improve technology at the checkpoints when it becomes available. Boynton said a body-imaging system is being tested that could eliminate the need for pat-downs.
He said the body-imaging systems are drawing criticism for being invasive because they can look through clothing. Screeners may be located a distance away from travelers to make the interaction less personal, he said.
Eliminating the pat-downs would be an important part of what Boynton calls "the balance between commerce and security," where the officers have to be efficient enough not to impede travelers, but still maintain safety.
To keep officers sharp, the TSA does periodic drills to prepare for certain types of emergencies, and in the past year the agency tested its officers four times for a total of 975 proficiencies.
To pass, an officer must get a score of at least 80 percent, or correctly complete at least 780 of those items, which include X-ray screening, baggage search, roving security and standard operating procedures.
With all the security measures in place, airport security measures are designed to catch a number of people, not just would-be terrorists.
Boynton said a behavior detection officer recently saw a person who appeared nervous and looked as if he was hiding something; he was found to have cocaine. Another person tried to go through with forged documents; he turned out to be a bookie, Boynton said. Both were turned over to the state police.
To connect with travelers, TSA at Bradley is participating in a "Got Feedback" program by setting up a blog from its website, www.tsa.gov, and encouraging feedback from people who have something to say about the airport.
The Bradley edition has been up for less than two weeks, and stickers have been put up around the airport to advertise it.
Like many travelers, Esther Woodruff of Berlin had to throw out something in her carry-on that she did not think would be a problem to bring onto a plane. She had a small container of shampoo that was over the 3-ounce limit, and a TSA officer at the security checkpoint said she couldn't bring it with her.
"I'm glad they did that," Woodruff said, even though she had to throw it out. "I'd rather have that than have them let things go through."
She said that every time she has flown from Bradley recently, the screening of her and other people has been very thorough, which comforts her.
Windsor resident Frances Rothenberg, waiting to board a flight to Florida this week, said she has not noticed any significant security changes in her frequent flights during the past few years and feels safer being screened.
"I don't like it, but I think it's necessary, so I accept it," she said.
On a recent trip out of Bradley, Coventry resident Ron Hodgkins said he saw a state trooper walking through his terminal with a police dog.
"That lets me know that these guys are keeping on top of things," he said.
"I don't have a problem with [the screening] at all. These guys are here to protect me. It's a long fall from up there."