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May 042013

MARK ABRAHAM/AFP/GettyImages(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Reworked security plans have been implemented at a number of upcoming sporting events, including Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, in hopes of minimizing the risks of an attack similar to that of the Boston Marathon bombing.

“After Boston, these big events cannot even begin to roll the dice and say, ‘Maybe we can skip here or there,’” Good Morning America sports contributor Christine Brennan said. “They’ve got to go all in and be as strong with their security as they have ever been.”

As spectators arrive at Churchill Downs for the famed Kentucky Derby on Saturday, they will have to leave their coolers, cans, and glass bottles behind. While Derby fans’ trademark hats are still permissible, snapping photos at the race will only be allowed if the camera doesn’t have a detachable lens.

Despite the heightened security measures, it is still possible for individuals to evade stricter rules.

According to an arrest report, a 44-year-old man was able to sneak into Millionaires’ Row at Churchill Downs without a ticket on Thursday. He then allegedly sat at a table and threatened to shoot people.

He was later taken into custody. Authorities did not find a weapon on the man.

The Kentucky Derby is not the only event where authorities plan to be vigilant. In preparation for the NBA Playoffs, the league told ABC News in a prepared statement that safety was always a priority.

“We regularly practice a wide range of state of the art security measures in all of our arenas,” the NBA said.

Meanwhile, at the Long Island Marathon, authorities will have radiation detectors and police explosives-sniffing dog unit along the course of the race to identify any potential threats.

Only runners will be permitted at the starting line area, only clear bags distributed by the race’s organizers will be permitted in bag check, and spectators won’t be allowed to bring any bags into the finish line area, according to the marathon’s website.

Following the Boston Marathon attacks on April 15, Lou Marcini, director of the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss., told ABC News that security at large sporting events “is very difficult to ensure.”

“If I go to a marathon tomorrow, are we going to be completely secure? The answer is probably not,” Marciani said. “We’ll do the best we can.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 052013

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — As the nation braces for potentially extended airport security lines because of the federal budget sequester, the Travel Security Administration (TSA) has announced they will allow small pocket knives and certain sporting goods on planes for the first time in more than a decade.

TSA Administrator John Pistole announced the change Tuesday at an aviation security conference in New York.

Starting April 25, passengers flying on U.S. flights will be allowed to carry small pocket knives — blades less than 6-centimeters, up to two golf clubs, ski poles, as well as sporting sticks used for hockey, lacrosse and billiards. Baseball bats will remain on the no-fly list, though wiffle-ball bats and souvenir baseball bats (less than 24-inches long) will be allowed.

“These are popular items we see regularly,” agency spokesman David Castelveter told Bloomberg News. “They don’t present a risk to transportation security.”

The move comes following a recommendation by a TSA working group that such items are not a security threat. The move will conform to international rules that currently allow the small knives and sporting goods.

“Frankly, I don’t want TSA agents to be delayed by these,” Pistole told the audience. Adding that TSA screeners at Los Angeles International Airport in the last three months of 2012, seized 47 of the small knives per day.

The Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which represents the 90,000 flight attendants on carriers nationwide, blasted the announcement calling it “poor and shortsighted.”

“Continued prohibition of these items is an integral layer in making our aviation system secure and must remain in place,” the statement said. “As the last line of defense in the cabin and key aviation partners, we believe that these proposed changes will further endanger the lives of all Flight Attendants and the passengers we work so hard to keep safe and secure.”

Razor blades and box-cutters, like those used by the 9/11 terrorists, will still be banned.

“There is just too much emotion involved with those,” Pistole said at the conference.

The Transportation Security Administration announced last week they would be reducing ”frontline workforce,” those who screen passengers prior to accessing a flight gate, and thereby lead to increased passenger wait times at airport security checkpoints.

The cuts come from a freeze of airport security screeners hiring and cutbacks on overtime, due to sequestration.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jan 112013

Collin County Jail(DALLAS) — A Texas dad terrified his child’s elementary school when he decided to conduct a “rogue” security drill to see how the school would respond in the event of an emergency, according to the school district.

Ron Miller, 44, entered the office of the Celina Elementary School at 7:50 a.m. on Wednesday, according to police, where he “conducted  his own drill to test the school’s response to an active shooter situation.”

“Although Miller did not display a weapon, the statements and actions of Miller were aggressive and created panic and fear among the school’s staff,” the Celina Police Department said in a news release.

Police rushed to the school. Miller was arrested later in the day.

Celina Independent School District superintendent Donny O’Dell sent a letter to parents on Thursday saying that the school did not believe at any time that the students were “in harm’s way,” but, as a precaution, a police officer was positioned at each of the district’s campuses for the rest of the day.

“We have always had a security plan in place that involved our police officials,” O’Dell wrote. “However, because of recent events we have ramped-up our security efforts on all campuses.”

O’Dell may have been referring to the Dec. 14 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where police say Adam Lanza, 20, went on a rampage that left 20 children and six adults dead in the school. Many schools across the country have increased security since the massacre.

Miller was arrested and charged with terroristic threat, which is a third degree felony. He is being held on a $75,000 bond.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Oct 082012

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEWARK, N.J.) — If you’ve ever showed up at an airport security checkpoint with more than the allowed amount of liquid — three ounces in any one container — still in your carry on bag or make-up case, you’re not alone.

And if you’ve managed to get through that checkpoint without having those liquids confiscated, you’re not the exception.

An internal Transportation Security Administration report accessed by New Jersey’s Star-Ledger newspaper found that at Newark Liberty International airport, agents take appropriate action on prohibited items in only a quarter of all cases.

And it’s worse news when it comes to pat-downs: The report found agents properly executing standard pat-downs of passengers only 16.7 percent of the time. When it came to informing passengers of their right to opt out of a full-body scan in favor of a pat-down, the agents did not inform passengers even once.

The newspaper said the report was dated June 8 and was titled PACE Airport Evaluation. It was compiled by “an undercover team of Transportation Security Administration employees from other airports who were asked to observe screeners at work at Newark Liberty.”

PACE is an acronym for Presence, Advisements, Communication and Execution. Observers who participate are TSA agents from other airports.

But it’s not all bad news for EWR’s TSA agents. The agents were observed removing prohibited items during physical searches and exhibiting good listening skills 100 percent of the time.

The TSA did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.

The report comes to light on the heels of an ABC News investigation on TSA theft. ABC News reported in September that a convicted TSA security officer says he was part of a “culture” of indifference that allowed corrupt employees to prey on passengers’ luggage and personal belongings with impunity, thanks to lax oversight and tip-offs from TSA colleagues.

“It was very commonplace, very,” said Pythias Brown, a former TSA officer at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey who admits he stole more than $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year period.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Oct 042012

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Reacting to an ABC News investigation into theft by Transportation Security Administration officers, Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday called on the agency to do random sting operations on its employees “to test whether TSA agents are acting in a trustworthy manner to protect passenger property.”

Schumer’s request came in a letter to TSA head John Pistole and also proposed that the TSA randomly screen its employees at the end of the workday.

“Most TSA agents are very good, hard-working and conscientious, but there are a few bad apples that spoil the bunch,” Schumer told ABC News Thursday. “We have to find them.”

Last week an ABC News investigation revealed that 381 TSA officers have been fired since the TSA was formed a decade ago for allegedly stealing from passengers. As part of the investigation, ABC News tracked an iPad that was purposefully left behind at an airport security checkpoint to the home of a TSA agent who was later fired for the alleged theft.

Another former TSA employee, Pythias Brown, served three years in prison for theft and said he stole approximately $800,000 worth of cash and merchandise from travelers before he was caught.

“It was very commonplace, very,” Brown told ABC News. “It was very convenient to steal … [TSA agents] didn’t think it was okay, but they did it and said, ‘I don’t care. They ain’t paying me. They’re treating me wrong.’ But when people started seeing they could profit off of it, then it became massive.”

In response to ABC News’ original report, the TSA provided a statement that said it has a “zero tolerance” policy towards theft and that the number of officers fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by the TSA.

The agency has conducted internal sting operations in the past after allegations of wrongdoing and has caught some officers red-handed, according to court documents.

The TSA Office of Inspection and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General conducted a joint undercover operation at the Kona International Airport in Hawaii on March 11, 2011 “in response to numerous allegations that KOA Lead Transportation Security Officer … Dawn Nikole Keka, was suspected of stealing cash from Japanese travelers passing through her security lane,” a criminal complaint said.

An undercover special agent of Japanese heritage placed 13 $100 U.S. bills in an orange wallet, and then placed the wallet in a Hello Kitty backpack and went through Keka’s checkpoint screening.

Immediately upon leaving the checkpoint, the undercover special agent examined the contents of the backpack and discovered she was $200 short, the documents said. Another special agent asked Keka to empty her pockets and she produced two $100 bills. The agents matched the serial numbers of the two bills to ones the undercover special agent had placed in the backpack.

Keka ended up pleading guilty to one count of theft and was sentenced to two months in prison.

Schumer told ABC News that such operations should not just be conducted in response to reported wrongdoing, but randomly to keep all TSA agents honest.

“The TSA has a huge job, but when it comes to the security and safety of people’s valuables, which they entrust to the TSA when they put them on the conveyor belt and go through the inspection, [TSA officials] have to be very, very careful and very, very vigilant,” Schumer said. “Thus far they haven’t done enough and could be doing more.”

In response to Schumer’s letter, the TSA told ABC News in a statement that “ensuring the safety of travelers through a professional workforce is of the highest priority for the TSA.”

“TSA takes allegations of misconduct seriously and will take appropriate corrective action as warranted,” the statement said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio