Today’s news:

Schumer demands more cargo inspectors at JFK

The U.S. Customs Service will complete the hiring of 1,500 new inspectors “within weeks” as part of the agency’s long-term plan to move forward with anti-terrorism efforts at Kennedy and other airports around the country.

Customs spokesman Jim Michie said this week the plans to hire the new inspectors preceded Sen. Charles Schumer’s call Sunday to add additional inspectors at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“Most new inspectors will be going to major ports and land and sea borders,” he said. “For now we are maintaining a level of security appropriate to our anti-terrorism efforts, which are very intensive.”

Schumer cited statistics showing a 20 percent drop in cargo inspections at Kennedy Airport since Sept. 11, compared to the first six months of 2001, and a 40 percent decline compared to the first six months of 2000.

“Customs should be inspecting more cargo since Sept. 11, not less,” Schumer said.

Michie, who would not comment directly on the statistics, said increased security has come from using existing employees working overtime, which serves as a “force multiplier” while the new employees are trained.

Schumer had called on Treasury Department officials to hire more customs inspectors for Kennedy, citing the decrease in inspections, the overtime policy and a redeployment program that shifts inspectors away from Kennedy Airport to New York’s northern borders.

Schumer said the U.S. Treasury Department, which monitors the Customs Service, has employed 65 percent fewer part-time and 4 percent fewer full-time employees since July 2000.

“We are looking at these figures and hopefully we’ll be able to look at what they mean,” Michie said. “Our first priority is anti-terrorism and we’re using technology and overtime to maintain security.”

A Treasury Department spokesman said the Customs Service is responsible for itself and determines the appropriate number of inspectors.

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