Defenders join TSA for behind-the-scenes look at restricted areas of Detroit Metro Airport

Local 4 Defenders get look behind closed doors

DETROIT – The Local 4 Defenders joined TSA for a look at the restricted areas of Detroit Metro Airport and learn more about what's going on behind the scenes.

TSA's job is to make sure passengers at DTW remain safe. You might have experienced the security checkpoints, but what you haven't seen is what happens behind those restricted areas.

The Defenders got a rare chance to look at how it all works.

DTW is Michigan's busiest airport and one of the largest airline hubs in the country.

"Once you check your luggage at the ticket counters with the airlines, it comes downstairs through the system and it goes through a baggage room," said Steve Lorincz, the federal security director of Homeland Security.

"So what you're saying is the ticket counters are above us?" Local 4 Defender Karen Drew said.

"The ticket counters are above us," Lorincz said.

"The bags just come right there?" Karen asked.

"The bags come down this line," Lorincz said. "It's going to go to this center loop right here.

"TSA screening is right on the other side of that wall."

On a typical day, anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 bags are screened at the airport.

"This is one of the rooms where we screen all of the bags," Lorincz said. "So, we have these machines. They're explosive trace detection machines, and what they do is every checked bag that is checked in by the airlines go through one of these machines. If additional inspection requirements are needed, what we do is we have another room where we have officers that clear those items."

Once a bag is flagged, it's brought to the TSA resolution room. Batter-powered robotic mobile inspection carts follow magnetic tape on the ground, using lasers to make sure they don't hit anyone or anything.

"So, these robotic handlers take the bag and take it to the human?" Karen asked.

"That is correct," Lorincz said.

If something is removed from a bag, an inspection notice is left inside the luggage. Cameras record the inspectors' every move at all times.

"We know how long the bag took to actually search the bag, and we save audio for each one of the bag searches," Lorincz said. "Once the employee clears the bag, removes any item from the bag that needs to be removed. The bag will travel via the robot, will travel to the clear belt and will go on the clear belt and will go to the airline makeup unit and be boarded onto the airplane."

Detroit Metro Airport is one of the five airports in the country using the mobile inspection tables. Right now, the airport has 22 of the robotic tables.

The Local 4 Defenders also got a look at a new technology that lets inspectors see a clear 3D image when they are screening bags. Officials also showed Local 4 some of the items inspectors have recently found inside luggage. You can watch that story on Local 4 News at 11 p.m. Monday.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.