(This column was published in the North Shore News on Dec. 25, 2002)  

 

Airport checks are no security

 

By Leo Knight

 

THE Christmas season is the heaviest travel time of the year.

 

The folly of airside screening has long been a burr under my saddle, and flying last week revealed a change in the procedures at our airports.

 

In the days since Sept. 11, the bureaucrats in charge of security at our airports launched a number of security measures designed more to make you think they were doing something than actually doing anything.

 

The travelling public were made to turn on laptops, PDAs, cellphones and the like. We were told we had to prove they were real and functioning.

 

Of course that was all nonsense. Had there been any real skill set among the people reading the X-Ray machines none of that would have been necessary. I've been saying that for months now. The collection of a $24 security tax is little more than outright theft by the federal government.

 

Last week on a flight out of YVR, I was pleasantly surprised to see passenger screeners were not asking me to boot up my laptop, Palm Pilot or cellphone. Instead, they now ask you to produce the laptop and they swab it down and run the swab through an analyzer presumably looking for traces of explosives.

 

Well, what a good idea! Unfortunately, they only swabbed around the edges of the screen and keyboard. Good thinking. That's the likeliest area for fingers to touch, fingers which may have handled explosives.

 

Except, it does not take into consideration that most, if not all, people who handle explosives, especially Semtex or C4, wear some type of polyurethane gloves. You see, the pores of the skin absorb the very irritating substance.

 

Nor do the swabs check out the area around the power switch of the computers - the very area which would be required by any homicide bomber to trigger their device. Equally, they do not swab the area under laptops which offer the access to the compartments where explosives would need to be inserted.

 

In other words, the actions have changed but it still is a sham.

 

By the government's own admission, they have collected over $400 million in the year since the air tax was imposed. I suspect the figure is much higher. But even if the calculation is spot on, what are we getting for our money?

 

The passenger screening has ceased doing one useless check and replaced it with equipment that's capable but still staffed by people who are only capable of doing another useless check.

 

I guess $400 million doesn't really buy that much anymore.

 

Last week the RCMP in Stony Plain, Alberta arrived on the scene of a B & E in progress in the wee hours of the morning. The criminals fled in a stolen pickup truck.

 

The Mounties did their best, but the crooks would not be stopped. They rammed police cruisers as they drove at breakneck speeds to evade capture. Four police cars were smashed in the escape attempt.

 

The RCMP stayed on the tail of the bad guys and the chase headed towards the west side of the City of Edmonton whose police force happens to have an air unit. Well, the city guys took up the chase, which continued on for miles of twists and turns.

 

The chasing police cars backed away from the suspects to get them to slow down while Air One kept tabs on them. At one point the suspects drove into a gas station thinking they were clear and tried to get some diesel for the truck, not realizing that the chopper still had them in its infra-red sights.

 

When the chase got outside the city on the north side - a distance of close to 50 miles from the original break-in - the police sprung their trap. Both suspects are now in custody, albeit one had to make a brief stop at the hospital to get some canine holes sutured up.

 

The case shows the effect a helicopter has as a tool for the police - especially in the Lower Mainland, where crooks steal cars with impunity and dare police to chase them. Instead of trying to fight this battle, police are being told not to engage. The theft of a car has been virtually decriminalized, as has running from police.

 

Proponents of liberalized drug laws blame the police saying the war on drugs has failed. Well, perhaps. But, so too has the war on property crime, the war on gang violence, the war on domestic violence and the war on pedophilia. Does that mean we should surrender in those as well?

 

Listening to the politicians like Justice Minister Martin Cauchon or watching the courts, one might assume our society already has.

 

In Vancouver, police are ordered not to engage criminals trying to evade capture. In Edmonton, the community got together and raised the money for a helicopter and gave it to the police to go and get them.

 

Which position makes more sense to you?

 

-30-

 

 

 

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