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Airport beefing up security with new cameras

The action is in response to two incidents that happened last year.

Although it will be more costly than expected, security cameras will be installed over the next four months at Tampa International Airport's airside checkpoints.

The Hillsborough Aviation Authority on Thursday approved spending $630,000 on the system, which will be installed by Pro Sound Inc. of Orlando. The four cameras will monitor activity at security checkpoints at each airside.

"People will be filmed every minute going through," said Louis Miller, the authority's executive director. "The control center will monitor those cameras so we know if anything goes wrong and can respond immediately."

Concern about airport security heightened after two potentially dangerous incidents last year. In November, a man's bag was tested at random for explosives at Airside A. But before the screener discovered evidence of traces of TNT on the bag, the man walked away with it. The airside was evacuated, but the man was never found.

In December, a man went through the Airside C checkpoint carrying a small revolver in a gym bag. The security screener, distracted by a nearby medical emergency, did not notice the image on his X-ray monitor until it was too late. The airside and several aircraft were evacuated, but explosives-sniffing dogs couldn't find the bag and the security screener hadn't gotten a good look at the man carrying it. He was never found.

Miller said the new system would have made those two incidents easier to handle. The cost is higher than the original estimate of $200,000 to $500,000 because the system will do more than expected, Miller said.

Monitors will be installed at the checkpoints so people will see they are being taped and maybe think twice about carrying weapons through, Miller said.

Their recorded images will give authorities a better chance of finding them later.

If the system had been installed during the previous incidents, the airport could have avoided delaying flights as passengers were put through security a second time, Miller said.

"There's no guarantee, but we believe the recording system would have enhanced our ability to find the person," Miller said. "It would have enhanced our ability to find the person without evacuating the airside."

The cost of the new cameras includes expanding the airport's existing closed-circuit system, installing more cameras and color monitors, and testing the new system.

In other matters, Miller reported at the meeting that June brought a 9 percent increase in passengers to the airport, a continuation of its record-breaking growth this year.