Security detail in place at Cape airport

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

A New York businessman and a retired Miami woman say the new security at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport is fine. When it comes to security, they'd rather see too much than face the consequences of not having enough.

The Cape Girardeau guy?

"I think it's a little overkill myself," said Johnson Norris, a Cape Girardeau resident who was traveling to Chicago via St. Louis.

Six temporary, part-time screeners appointed by the federal government spent their second day at Cape Girardeau Tuesday, searching through carry-on bags one-by-one as part as a national effort to protect airports from terrorists. By late next week, the temporary employees will be replaced by permanent employees from Southeast Missouri, five of whom are being trained in St. Louis, said Clem Spencer, a federal security director with the Transportation Security Administration.

The TSA screeners are being put to work at every U.S. airport by Nov. 19 as mandated by the federal government.

Baggage checked

All six temporary screeners worked the flights Tuesday. One helped passengers place their coats and bags into plastic containers that would be put on a conveyor belt and passed through X-ray device. Another screener checked a television monitor that showed what was in each bag. Two searched the bags by hand; one manned the metal detector and another used the hand wand to search those who set off the metal detector.

Bruce Loy, airport manager, said he was originally told the airport would have 15 TSA screeners. He said he thought six was much more reasonable.

Spencer, in a telephone conversation from his Springfield, Mo., office, said no more than four screeners would be working any flight at a time since days off had to be scheduled.

Norris still thought four was too many, considering there is an average of nine passengers per flight.

"I think it's a lot," he said. "It's not much different than when the government takes over anything. It takes a lot of people to do the job."

However, not everyone sees it that way.

"The security here looks great," said New Yorker Don DiMartini, who was on his way back home. "I have no problem with the beefed-up security. I actually got searched very thoroughly in St. Louis. But everyone was polite, efficient and respectful of my things."

Ann Merrick flew from Florida to visit relatives in Sikeston.

"I feel I'm safe," she said. "I'm not against it. I'd rather do that than somebody get on a plane and something bad happen."

David Steigman, a spokesman for TSA, said the number of screeners at each airport was determined by engineers from Lockheed Martin and Boeing. He said a number of factors are taken into consideration, including the number of flights, passengers and checkpoints.

The part-time employees will make anywhere from $11.35 to $17 per hour, Spencer said.

Loy expressed some concern that there might be a high turnover rate with so many part-time positions, but Spencer said many have asked to be part-time instead of full-time.

"For some people, it fits into their lifestyle where they're starting a career or it might be a lady with children at home who doesn't want to work full-time," Spencer said. "I think we'll find very qualified people. The screening process is difficult and it takes quite a bit of time to fill out forms and go through the steps of the assessment process."

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