What happens to items seized at airports

Ripping open one of four waist-high cardboard boxes on a cargo bay here, Steve Ekin pulled out corkscrews, pocketknives and assorted hand tools before finding an electric impact drill as long as his arm. “You’d think people would know better,” he said.

The original price tag, still on the drill, read $170. Mr. Ekin planned to sell it for about $15 at a store opened last October in a warehouse district northeast of Atlanta. He’s the director of Georgia’s Surplus Property Division, the agency in charge of selling the government’s used belongings. These days, he’s also selling the items that trigger alarms at security checkpoints at nearby Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest in terms of passengers and flights.

Nearly six years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — and a blitz of government marketing about what is and isn’t allowed — thousands of travelers still attempt to board aircraft with scissors, awls, hammers and saws. They even try to carry on box cutters, the weapons apparently used by some of the 9/11 attackers to commandeer and crash four planes.

Some states trash or destroy some of the items, along with the shampoos, toothpaste and other gels and liquids banned in large amounts after a British bomb scare last August.

But many states now sell the banned objects and keep the proceeds. Alabama, Arkansas and Illinois tout them online. Kentucky enjoys a cottage industry in Internet sales of miniature Louisville Sluggers surrendered after factory tours in the baseball bats’ hometown. Pennsylvania, which collects goods at 13 airports including New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, says it collects a total of 2.5 tons of TSA goods a month and that the items, sold on eBay, since 2004 have raised $360,000 for state coffers, as of June.

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