Physical Assaults on TSA Officers Have Increased 31%
New numbers show that airport assaults on Transportation Security Administration officers are on the rise. The agency says that these physical assaults from passengers have increased 31% year over year.
In 2017, TSA officers were assaulted at least 34 times — a significant jump from the 26 physical assaults the airport screeners sustained in 2016.
The most common profile of a passenger who assaults the agents is a male passenger in the age range of 41-50 years old, a TSA spokesperson told NBC Portland. More than half of last year's assaults occurred during a pat-down or bag check, an internal TSA study found.
“It is not just physical," J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents TSA officers, told the NBC affiliate. "There’s verbal abuse of the TSA officers on a regular re-occurring basis,” he said, noting that there are probably some physical assaults that officers don't report, too. The reason more people are angry with TSA screeners? Cox guesses it's the longer lines at the airport.
“There are less officers which frequently causes lower morale, causes lines to be longer at airports and therefore people get frustrated because they are in lines longer,” he explained.
The TSA says it has a watchlist of passengers that are likely to assault officers, though that list has less than 50 names on it and those passenger can't be barred from boarding flights, nor are they subject to additional scrutiny.
Although the fact that assaults against the officers are up 31% might seem shocking, it's important to put the numbers in perspective. Given how many air passengers there are every day in the US, the instances of physical assault against TSA employees is still quite rare. In fact, the agency says that there is less than one assault per 17 million passengers screened.