TSA takes ABC7 behind-the-scenes at LAX security

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There may be airports that handle more flights, but when it comes to passengers going through terminals, the Los Angeles International Airport is number one.

"We screen about 36 million passengers a year, almost 100,000 passengers per day," Transportation Security Administration Spokesperson Nico Melendez said.

The roughly 3,000 employees of the TSA are tasked with screening all those passengers. The TSA officers rotate every half-hour to different positions in order to keep them fresh and alert.

"In a 30 minute rotation, you can do 250 to 300 bags easily," TSA Officer Steve Ortiz said.

In 2015, officials said 2,600 firearms were confiscated from carry-on bags in U.S. airports, which is a 20 percent increase from the year before. With all the high-tech tools the TSA uses, officers are searching for weapons that are getting smaller and smaller.

"The threat to civil aviation these days is explosives. It's not like Wiley Coyote and Roadrunner anymore. It's not sticks of dynamite with a clock on it," Melendez explained. "We're looking for the smallest, tiny threat to aviation that can bring down an aircraft and we know it's going to be an explosive."

That kind of search can take time, and over the past 14 years TSA security lines have earned a reputation as slow and mentally draining.

But Ortiz, a six-year veteran with the TSA, said officers have been working to improve not just their efficiency, but also the way they interact with passengers.

"It is OK to give them a smile and it's harder for them to yell at you when you're smiling," Ortiz joked.
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