TSA officials confiscate hundreds of unsafe items at Baton Rouge airport

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Police at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport have confiscated 10 guns, some of them loaded, from travelers so far this year. That's more than they found all of last year. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says passengers are getting too lax with the travel rules. Knives, razor blades and even a chainsaw have been found by agents at airport checkpoints.

Everyday agents with the TSA are responsible for screening thousands of bags and people at the airport.  TSA, the anti-terrorism agency which was created following the attacks on 9-11, has a mission to maintain safety for the traveling public.

"Our officers continue to intercept items that you definitely would not want the person sitting next to you to have on them," said Sari Koshetz, the TSA Spokesperson.

Yet almost 13 years after 9-11, Koshetz says, there are still questionable items caught at the checkpoint.

"Hatchets, chainsaws...had a fully gassed chainsaw brought to the checkpoint in Miami," Koshetz said.

TSA agents and the airport police covered three tables as a sampling of what people have tried to get through the airport in Baton Rouge and others around the state of Louisiana.

"That's a nine millimeter, that's a .38 and we have .45's," said Anthony Williams, the chief of police at the airport. He says there is always something that gets questioned at the airport, one reason his 32 officers are always on patrol.

"We had an incident recently where a person had razor blades in their shoes. We wanted to question that person," said Williams. He added security cameras also allow police to have eyes all around the airport. "They noticed a person putting something in one of the planters. An officer was dispatched. He was putting a knife in one of the planters cause he didn't want to walk back to his car."

Depending on what they find, TSA agents give the traveler choices so they could potentially keep the item in question.

For example, a jambalaya paddle and a five-pound purple weight were among the items agents had on the tables. They were told by TSA agents to either check the items at the airline counter, take them back to the car, or give them to the person who dropped them off. If they don't take those choices, then they voluntarily abandon the item to TSA. It then goes to a surplus company where they can be sold.

For more serious finds like loaded guns, police are called to takeover.

"We've taken a number of guns this year. A number of people are in the process of being tried for that," said Williams. "Nothing surprises me with that. People look at us and the first question they want to ask us is ' Do I look like a terrorist?"

The guns are placed into evidence. The owners could face criminal charges as well as civil penalties from TSA. If the owner proves to a judge they forgot about the gun it could be returned. If not, it's taken to be destroyed.

In October 2013, airport police confiscated 72 pounds of cocaine off a private plane that landed in Baton Rouge. Williams adds they've also found marijuana and pills that people have tried to get through security. They even had someone come through multiple times with 20 different computers.

"Ended up most of them were stolen and one belonged to the Department of Defense," Williams said.

Keeping his officers trained on the latest ways passengers try to sneak things through security is a big part of the job.

"There have been situations where people have actually cut slits and sewn knives and other items into their luggage," Williams said.

Koshetz says with terrorists still interested in aviation, the rules TSA has are in place for a reason.

Williams says people should feel safe traveling through the Baton Rouge airport.

"At the end of the day, we say 'not on our watch.'"

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