Slingshots, brass knuckles, pocket knives, and even a baseball bat -- these are not items people want to see at an airport, yet they are among the dozens of contraband items security officials have confiscated within the past few weeks.
Lorie Dankers with the Transportation Security Administration showed NBC 7 just some of the items agents have collected at the San Diego International Airport during much of June, which one couple called “startling and scary.”
“I actually was pretty surprised when I first started working here that these types of items are brought by passengers. I was surprised by how frequently it occurred, but I also was surprised by how unfamiliar people were with the rules related to air travel,” said Dankers, who has been with the TSA for seven years.
Electric tools, hammers, wrenches, tasers, and a large corkscrew stake meant to hold dog leashes were all on display in Terminal 2 as a warning to travelers. Some of the most common items, Dankers said, were pocket knives and tools.
“Right behind knifes, we see a lot of different types of tools, absolutely,” she told NBC 7. “Self-defense items – very, very common.”
Even pepper spray is not generally allowed in checked or carry-on bags.
“We don’t take any chances. We have a very important job to do. We have to get it right every single time,” Dankers said. “We make sure it doesn’t get onto the aircraft.”
Chicago residents Tom and Heather Sczygielski were shocked to see the table full of weapons as they arrived at the San Diego airport.
When asked if she’d ever bring these items on a plane, Heather Sczygielski had a definite response.
“No, no! I taught first grade. We don’t carry those kind of things,” Heather Sczygielski told NBC 7. “Good job by the TSA, but I think that’s a hard job.”
Tom Sczygielski echoed his wife’s sentiment.
“Thank God they find this and be able to catch it all,” he said. “I only carry golf clubs.”
If TSA agents do spot suspected contraband in carry-on luggage, one of three things will happen: the owner can decide to put the banned item in a checked bag at a ticket counter, give it to a non-traveling friend or family member who can take it home, or choose to surrender the item to airport security.
If the item is given to the TSA, it will be added to a larger collection that can’t be accessed by airport employees, according to Dankers.
“They don’t belong to me. They don’t belong to any of our officers. We can’t take these items home. They cannot become our property,” Dankers said.
After a period of time, the airport turns over its collection to a state surplus agency which then disposes of or auctions off the items.
“None of these items would be here on this table if passengers had followed the rules that are in place and have been in place shortly after 9/11,” Dankers said.
If TSA agents spot a potentially dangerous item in a checked bag, they will either examine the luggage or call the airport’s explosive specialists.
“When they do that, it does back up the entire checked baggage system, because those other bags coming behind it are not going to be screened,” Dankers told NBC 7. “TSA has to be right every single time.”
Law enforcement will be notified if the contraband item is deemed a threat, according to Dankers. And while law enforcement would handle the incident from thereon out, the TSA can still fine the traveler.
In cases involving firearms, the TSA can fine a passenger anywhere from $2,000 to more than $13,000, Dankers said.
“Not only is it inconvenient, it also can be a very expensive mistake. And it’s one that people regret,” she said.
To view an extensive list of what can and cannot be placed in carry-on or checked luggage, visit the TSA’s website.