Watch your stuff! Airports have more surveillance than just about any other place in the country. There are numerous law enforcement agencies on site, from the TSA to Customs and Border Patrol to the DEA. There are cameras everywhere. Yet passenger belongings are being stolen all the time, and almost no one gets caught.
That’s the conclusion, at least, based on data from the Charlotte airport where about 200 reports of theft have been logged since the beginning of last year, despite massively depressed travel numbers during the pandemic.
One retired Marine who had two XBOXs stolen from his luggage after checking in for a flight from Charlotte to San Diego reported no one even caring when he filed reports.
Shorter filed reports with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, TSA and Frontier Airlines but felt that none of them took it seriously.
…Frontier Airlines told Shorter that their Contract of Carriage doesn’t cover stolen items…TSA told him they would only investigate if he could provide an inspection receipt, but he couldn’t find one in his suitcase.
…Shorter says CMPD only started looking into his XBOX theft after he started calling and emailing frequently. He says an officer told him he found footage of his luggage being searched by an employee but no video of the actual XBOX being stolen.
“The first thing he told me when he got on the phone was, ‘I understand you have a problem with the investigation. Maybe the first thing you need to realize is your Xbox is gone and you’re not getting it back’,” Shorter said.
Most theft reports “came from people who said something was stolen at a checkpoint, in a terminal or even on the plane.” The most common items stolen are wallets and purses; cell phones; laptops; and luggage. At the Charlotte airport fewer than 4% of reported thefts end in arrest, and that includes for reports of shoplifting from stores in the airport.
Baggage handlers steal from checked bags. oneworld’s head of finance allegedly stole $2.2 million. And a former Miss USA stole noise cancelling headphones. I’ve even reported on a ring of thieves stealing from passenger bags in the overhead bin.
Here are some things you can do to avoid being a victim yourself,
- Don’t let your items out of sight at the security checkpoint. If a screener wants to move you away, insist that you be allowed to watch your stuff, that you can collect your belongings or that they bring your items to you.
- Mark your bags clearly and don’t use luggage that looks like everyone else’s bags, because sometimes theft is inadvertent (and when someone realizes they have the wrong bag they may not return it).
- Board early enough to get overhead bin space above your head, so you’re more likely to notice someone taking your belongings during the flight.
- Carry the most valuable items on your person, or in a bag that remains underneath the seat in front of you.
What do you do to protect yourself while at the airport or on board?