When Mall Accursi left on the first leg of her flight to China, she planned on embroidering her way through the 14-plus hours of total flight time. But when passing through security at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, she was told her miniature embroidery scissors could not be carried on the plane.
“I checked online and I thought they were OK because the blades were so small, but they said no,” Accursi recalled as she waited with her husband Friday afternoon in the baggage claim section of the Buffalo airport. “Oh great. Now what do I do?”
The Transportation Security Administration, whose officers monitor security at airports across the country, has collected 400 pounds of contraband items from passengers during the last three months at the Buffalo airport, said Lisa Farbstein of the TSA’s Office of Public Affairs.
In Newark and JFK airports, Farbstein said, four tons of prohibited items come through every year.
Friday, Farbstein visited Buffalo to show off the hundreds of prohibited items travelers have tried to carry on planes at Buffalo Niagara.
A banquet-sized table occupied the center of the airport’s TSA conference room. It held hundreds of Swiss Army knives, brass knuckles, a wooden martial arts sword, a cricket bat and a lime-green and black Rawlings baseball bat with a price sticker of $49.99.
“People really think about what they’re going to pack when they go on a trip,” said Farbstein.
“We want them to think about what they should unpack. Maybe it’s something they always carry in their brief case or pocketbook.
“These things are not illegal,” Farbstein stressed. “They are just prohibited from being carried on a plane. Some of the weapons – brass knuckles for example – are illegal depending on the weapons law in the jurisdiction.
“If brass knuckles are found in your checked luggage at the New York City airports of LaGuardia and JFK, you face arrest because they are illegal. In Buffalo, that is not the case.”
Knives are the most popular item travelers try to take on planes, Farbstein said. Many of the blades collected were disguised. The credit-card knife, for example, is becoming popular.
“We’re seeing a growing amount of credit-card knives,” Farbstein said. “They are a little thicker than regular credit cards, but they fit into your wallet. One unfolds into a knife, while other types have a blade that pulls out. You could do a lot of harm with this,” she said demonstrating how the device works. “They are very cheap and people are starting to carry them more. It could be a very good tool – in your glove compartment.”
Conventional tools more than seven inches long cannot be brought onto planes, according to TSA regulations. “That’s because they can be used as bludgeoning instruments,” Farbstein said. “They’re heavy and metal and could be a weapon.”
Items on key chains such as Swiss Army pocket knives and a phony car key that conceals a small but razor-sharp knife blade are items that passengers apparently forget about prior to screening, Farbstein said.
If such items are detected, travelers will be given the option to voluntarily abandon the property, take it out of the checkpoint and mail it, check it, hand it off to a friend or dispose of it in some other manner, the TSA website states.
Similarly, realistic replicas such as a toy cap gun, or a belt buckle that looks like a hand grenade, also are prohibited in carry-on bags.
“Basically, this looks real in an x-ray machine,” Farbstein said, holding up a toy cap gun. “It is something that should never come to the checkpoint because someone on a plane could think this is real. It could cause a panic.”
Additionally, replica items slow down airport lines because a police officer will be summoned to determine if the replica is a working weapon.
Usually the prohibited items will be sold by the individual state’s Department of General Services.
Items recovered in New York State airports, however, are collected and sent to a warehouse in Harrisburg, Pa., operated by Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services, Farbstein said. The items are sold online and over the counter. The Pennsylvania warehouse collects items from 12 different airports in five states.
Travelers are advised to visit the Transportation Security Administration website at tsa.gov to try out a feature called “Can I bring my _______ ? Just type in the item you wish to bring, and find out immediately whether it should go in your checked bag, carry-on luggage or be left at home. The same feature may be downloaded to your smartphone.