Federal Authorities Boosting Security At Florida Airports

Tuesday, March 13th 2007, 8:01 pm
By: News On 6

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ The Transportation Security Administration stepped up security at airports around Florida on Tuesday, days after baggage handlers in Orlando were accused of smuggled guns aboard a commercial airliner.

More than 160 security officers, aviation inspectors, federal air marshals and others were being dispatched to airports in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The officers will be in place for a few days before rotating to other airports, officials said.

TSA and airport security procedures were criticized last week after law enforcers arrested four people in a suspected smuggling ring that is believed to have bypassed security at Orlando International Airport to send guns and drugs to Puerto Rico.

Two airline baggage handlers are accused of using their employee uniforms and airport identification cards to enter restricted areas and avoid security screeners. Handguns and an assault rifle were found in a carry-on bag seized by authorities.

The airport has begun screening employees for at least a few days as a first step, spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said, adding that officials still aren't sure what else they will do, or when.

``We will have to look at our budget and find the money,'' she said. ``It may mean we will not do some projects that are planned or previously budgeted for. It is very important that we have confidence in the systems here.''

Miami International Airport began screening employees in 1999 after drug smuggling there, spokesman Marc Henderson said.

Other airports rely on pre-hiring background checks and random physical searches, both self-conducted and those done by TSA.