Make us your home page
Instagram

Airports stepping up vehicle inspections

Be prepared to pop open the trunk for a security check the next time you drive to Tampa International Airport.

The Transportation Security Administration is stepping up random vehicle inspections at the airport as a visible deterrent to bad guys and to train officers in case of real security threats.

"They're going to be random and staggered," said Gary Milano, federal security director for the Tampa Bay area. "The idea is to stay ahead of wrongdoers." The move is part of a nationwide push to increase inspections at airports and seaports.

On Friday morning, officers stopped every third car at gates to the airport's short-term parking garage. Drivers were asked for permission to search their vehicles, then instructed to open the trunk and door locks and turn off the engine. Searches took about a minute. They were not in response to a specific threat, Milano said.

Drivers who refused to let an officer look through their vehicle would have been kept out of the short-term garage. But no one did during the first two hours of checks Friday morning, a TSA supervisor said.

Motorists seemed to take it all in stride. "I don't have a problem with it," said Bill Deboskey of Tampa, who was picking up his boss from a trip. "We got to do what we've got to do for safety."

This is one of the airport's busiest times, with people traveling for Easter and the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship opening rounds in Tampa.

Milano and airport officials agreed to limit checks to vehicles entering the garage atop Tampa International's main terminal. Stopping cars on the airport's entrance road could have caused long traffic jams, said Louis Miller, Tampa International's executive director.

"It's a balance between security and customer service," Milano said.

The TSA won't announce the date, location or length of the next vehicle inspections. Officers might pull over cars on the George Bean Parkway into the airport or stop them at entrances to the long-term or economy parking garages.

On Friday, officers were looking for car bombs, Milano said. "We're talking about 50-gallon tanks of gasoline or possibly something on the bottom of the car," he said. "If there's a tarp in the back seat, we'd want to look a little further. We're not looking in the glove compartment."

Officers who find contraband other than bomb materials during a search will call airport police to investigate and file charges if warranted.

Eighteen local TSA officers are assigned to the program, called "Viper" for Visible Intermodal Protection and Response. Milano couldn't say if there would be any additional costs. Viper is a nationwide program that's been used periodically at Tampa International, most recently six months ago.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Airports stepping up vehicle inspections 03/21/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 10:47am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trigaux: For Class of 2016, college debt loads favor Florida graduates

    Banking

    Florida college graduates saddled with student debt: Take heart. The average debt Class of 2016 Florida grads must bear is less than students in most states.

    University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for last fall's commencement ceremony. A new survey finds their average student debt upon graduating was $22,276. Statewide, 2016 Florida grads ranked a relatively unencumbered 45th among states, averaging $24,461 in student debt. [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  2. After Hurricane Irma, many ask: How safe are shelters?

    News

    NAPLES — Residents of the Naples Estates mobile home park beamed and cheered when President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott strolled amid piles of shredded aluminum three days after Hurricane Irma to buck up residents and hail the work of emergency responders. But almost nobody had anything good to say about …

    The Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area opened its doors to anyone seeking temporary shelter during Hurricane Irma. Evacuees were housed in the Istaba multipurpose building and was quickly at capacity housing over 500 people. [Saturday, September 9, 2017] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  3. When elders are in peril, who do you call — 911 or Rick Scott's cell?

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Twelve hours after Irma blasted through South Florida, conditions at Larkin Community Hospital in Hollywood were miserable.

    Police surround the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which had no air conditioning after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, on Sept. 13 in Hollywood. So far, nine deaths have been blamed on the incedent. [John McCall | South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
  4. Report slams Pinellas construction licensing agency and leaders

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board mismanaged its finances, lacked accountability and disregarded its own rules, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by the county's inspector general.

    Rodney Fischer, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, resigned in January.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Ciccio executive chef Luis Flores prepares an Impossible Burger Wednesday at the Epicurean Hotel Food Theatre in Tampa.