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Less pat downs for children and under 12 will not have to take their shoes off at airports

Posted by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 4:34 PM
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Children 12 years old and younger won't have to take off their shoes to get on an airplane, and they'll get patted down less, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday.

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These changes will be adopted in airports nationwide within months, after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers receive extra training, Napolitano told the Senate homeland security committee. The program will be expanding from a pilot program in six airports that began in the spring.

"There'd be additional training for a different pat-down procedure for them and also, again, allowing them to leave their shoes on," Napolitano says.

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The announcement was the latest example of an effort by the department to have risk-based screening rather than the same process for everybody, as TSA Administrator John Pistole mapped out in a series of speeches.

"As we have made clear, we are always taking steps, based on the most recent intelligence, to enhance procedures while at the same time improving the passenger experience whenever possible," spokesman Greg Soule said. "TSA anticipates these changes, which will begin rolling out in select airports this week, will continue to strengthen and streamline the security screening process for travelers."

After public outrage in April over a video of a 6-year-old girl getting patted down at Louis Armstrong New Orleans Memorial Airport, Pistole told the Senate committee in June that the agency would try to avoid patting down children.

"We do want to move and are moving to a more risk-based approach to screening passengers, try to streamline procedures for those passengers who are low-risk, which enhances our ability to focus on passengers who either we don't know or who are high-risk," Napolitano said Tuesday.

Authorities have been experimenting with new strategies for children at airports in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Houston, Miami and Orlando.

In those locations, TSA officers allow children repeated attempts to pass through screening equipment called advanced imaging technology, which is geared to find possible weapons in clothing. Pat-downs might still be used if officers can't resolve an uncertain image.

Under the new policy, random searches will still be conducted for children and other passengers who are treated differently, to keep the system unpredictable, Napolitano said.

However, Napolitano said, the children will be able to avoid taking off their shoes and have different pat-down procedures "over the coming weeks and months."

                


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by on Sep. 14, 2011 at 4:34 PM
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