PORTLAND — Waiting in the security line to board a flight Tuesday at the Portland International Jetport, Secil Schodroski expressed a view that many air travelers may share during the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I think it’s going a little too far, but I just want to be safe,” said Schodroski, who was going home to St. Louis after a business trip. “I just want to get home safe to my children.”

Schodroski was reacting to stepped-up security measures that include new body-scanning machines and more thorough pat-downs at the nation’s largest airports. The procedures, which have yet to come to Maine, have triggered a public backlash that includes concerns about privacy, radiation exposure and personal freedom.

The Transportation Security Administration is operating 385 advanced body scanners in 68 airports, including the top connectors and destinations for Maine travelers: Boston, New York, Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta and major cities in Florida.

Those airports are also still using the familiar metal detectors, and a traveler’s chances of being selected for a full-body scan during holiday travel are not high, said Paul Bradbury, the jetport’s director. The chances of undergoing a pat-down are lower still.

Of all passengers who have been asked to have full-body scans since the measures began Nov. 1, only 1 percent have declined, the TSA has said. Travelers who instead agree to pat-down searches account for 3 percent of all passengers, the agency said.

The new scanning technology isn’t in Portland yet, but the TSA plans to add 500 units next year. The list showing where they will go won’t be available before January, said Ann Davis, a TSA spokeswoman in Boston. She couldn’t say whether Portland will be on the list.

Davis also said it’s too early to know whether Portland could be in line for an alternative body scanner. Those scanners, being used in Europe, produce a generic body outline that resembles a cartoon-like stick figure, not a real image of a person’s naked body. If a foreign object is detected, the passenger is flagged for a pat-down search.

Some fliers who use Portland’s airport are aware of the technology.

“I think it’s time to go to the more-advanced scanners,” said Nancy Austin, who was awaiting a flight to Newark on Tuesday.

Three U.S. senators, including Susan Collins of Maine, have been making that case to the TSA. The technology is called automated target recognition, and Collins said she saw it operating in Amsterdam.

The TSA is studying automated target recognition, Davis said, although it believes the current software generates too many false positive readings. Her boss, TSA Administrator John Pistole, said recently that automated target recognition may be the way to go, if and when it’s perfected.

Whatever comes to Portland, Bradbury said he hopes the scanners won’t arrive until the jetport’s new terminal is completed next fall. He recently had a chance to walk through one of the body scanners at Boston’s Logan International Airport and study the images.

“I tried to look for everything I thought would be contentious, and it’s not X-ray vision,” he said. “It’s pretty benign, in my opinion.”

That view was shared Tuesday by Michelle Ferris, a Detroit-bound flier. “We all look the same under our clothes,” she said.

Frank Ritorto, a business traveler arriving from New York, said he came through LaGuardia Airport but didn’t notice the new scanners.

“I don’t think the uproar is warranted,” he said. “If I’m safer on the flight, I’d put up with it.”

But at least one outbound passenger on Tuesday had reason to speculate that he might experience the new security measures.

Ken Brief was flying to see his family in Newark. Brief, who has an artificial hip, said the metal routinely sets off detectors and he ends up being searched with a hand wand.

He’d rather not go through the new body scanner, because he’s concerned about radiation exposure. But he also doesn’t want to be “groped,” he said.

“I can’t worry about it now,” he concluded as he prepared to hand over his identification and go through security.

 

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at: [email protected]