For all the stories we hear about people who inadvertently slip a knife or gun through airport security, there are countless other travelers whose contraband is confiscated after it shows up on the security scan. But what exactly happens to all that fun stuff?
According to USA Today, 30 different states have arrangements with airports and the Transportation Security Administration to take those confiscated items off their hands with the intention of selling them at auction.
For example, Pennsylvania has a warehouse in Harrisburg where all three of the New York City area airports truck the items taken from passengers by the TSA. Since 2004, the state estimates it’s made $700,000 by selling all those machetes, Swiss Army knives and other things that don’t immediately strike you as a security threat, like snow globes and fuzzy handcuffs.”
“We collected more fuzzy handcuffs than you would ever see in your life — boxes and boxes of fuzzy handcuffs,” says the executive director of the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property, who helped negotiate the deals with the airports after post-9/11 security resulted in a sharp increase in the number of items being confiscated.
While there isn’t a market for some of the confiscated goods, the items for which there is the most demand — pocket knives, scissors, corkscrews — are also the most frequently confiscated.
The state of California holds quarterly auctions of confiscated goods. The most recent sale brought in $9,800. While that isn’t a ton of cash, it’s essentially found money for the state.
But even though most states are in desperate need for cash, Georgia pulled out of the program in 2008 because, “It was a lot of work for very little return.”