COLORADO SPRINGS — Security officials at the Colorado Springs Airport say they are busier than ever as the city's airport is already surpassing pre-pandemic passenger volumes. News5 gets a behind the scenes look at some of the items stopped by agents at the TSA checkpoint in the last few weeks and what they're most concerned about.
Federal officials just released a report saying since the start of the year there have been more than 3,500 reports of unruly airline passengers. That's up 500% from 2019.
When you combine that with the potentially dangerous items being stopped at TSA checkpoints every day, including here in Colorado Springs, you see why it's so important for airport security to get it right.
It's busier than it's been in awhile at the TSA security checkpoint at the Colorado Springs Airport.
According to TSA data the week of July 11th 26,700 passengers were screened at the airport by TSA. That same week in 2019, that number was just 21,300. Overall passenger volume is up 25% compared to 2019.
So bringing prohibited items through security really puts a strain on the system.
"It slows everybody down. It slows down the efficiency of our operation. It frustrates the traveler," said TSA Public Affairs spokesperson Lorie Dankers. "These are all items that have been brought to the Colorado Springs Airport checkpoint in the last couple of weeks. So if a passenger didn't bring it we couldn't show it to you."
TSA leaders put out a bunch of items they've found in carry-on bags in the last week and explained what some of the items were.
"We have a box cutter right here. There's a lot of people who have an emotional response to a box cutter because that was the weapon of choice in 2001 for the 9/11 hijackers. People today will still bring a box cutter to the checkpoint," said Dankers.
Several self-defense items were also removed from bags in the last week.
"We see mace every single day coming through the security checkpoint. If that was to discharge in the cabin of the aircraft it absolutely would be a disaster," said Dankers.
But the most common item removed from carry-on bags are knives.
"We get about 100 pounds a month of what we call these metals and sharps," said Dankers.
News5 was shown knives of all shapes and sizes. Even one knife that doubles as a comb and another that's small enough to fold up like a credit card to stick inside your wallet.
Some items like sports equipment, weights, or toy weapons may seem harmless, but security officials say they could cause problems onboard and aircraft if a conflict occurs with a passenger.
The items on this table were all surrendered to TSA and will now be sold in auctions with other items that belong to the state.
TSA says it will give passengers these options if they find prohibited items in their carry-on bag:
- You can travel items in a checked bag
- Return them to your car or pass them off to friends or family to take home
- Ship the item to yourself from the airport gift shop
- Surrender the item and continue the boarding process
But TSA tells News5 the agency has zero tolerance for people trying to bring guns in carry-on baggage and this happens fairly often in Colorado.
According to TSA last year 9 guns were spotted at the security checkpoint in Colorado Springs and 104 at Denver's airport. So far in 2021 (Through July 22nd) there have been 7 in Colorado Springs and 73 in Denver.
TSA says violators are removed and interviewed by law enforcement and face civil penalties with fines from $2,000 to more than $10,000.
"In fact, about 80% of the time those firearms are loaded and about 75% of those that are loaded have one in the chamber," said Dankers about guns identified by TSA agents nationwide.
To keep up with rising passenger volume TSA leaders tell me that the agency is looking at hiring new employees, even right here in Colorado Springs and they are offering a signing bonus for anyone to takes on this important job.
For more TSA job information:
To see TSA guidelines for airline passengers: