Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: Airport security and baggage handling - hold on to your valuables!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Airport security and baggage handling - hold on to your valuables!

Thursday, I finally took in our honeymoon pictures to be developed at Costco. The lady ahead of me had picked up her pictures and had a problem with several of them. I ended up overhearing her conversation with the clerk and was flabbergasted.

It seems that she was at a family reunion in Minnesota and caught her flight home to Anchorage at Minneapolis airport. Not only did they take her 2 disposable cameras in a baggage search, they ended up keeping them - with all of her pictures of the reunion!

The lady contacted Airport Security and after having to pay a Fed Ex bill, she got her cameras back...with some extras.

These guys had the balls to take pictures with one of her cameras! She showed them to me...they were NOT accidental because one of them was of a guy behind an x-ray machine looking right at the camera!

I encouraged her to report this to the Airport officials because, who knows what other mayhem these guys perpetrate on poor travelers! It made me curious so I started checking a few things on Google. What I found was pretty interesting.


More than 400 travelers at Pittsburgh International have filed those theft claims. They're among more than 36,000 passengers nationally. The TSA has reimbursed passengers in about half of those cases.

The TSA says none of its screeners in Pittsburgh has been terminated for theft. But as Team 4 discovered, when the TSA gets a theft complaint, the federal agency does not pass that information on to the police.

New York/New Jersey

Airport screeners need immediate access to luggage in order to conduct security searches for unsafe items. It's difficult to argue with this rationale. No one wants a bomb loaded secretly onto the plane she is boarding. But who doesn't feel a tiny bit of dread over the thought of a stranger rifling through his personal belongings? And what's more, what if that stranger steals something?

According to the Port Authority of New York and the New Jersey Police Department, that's exactly what occurred at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports in 2004. Their investigation began in April in response to numerous complaints from airline passengers, including some celebrities. An airport sting operation recorded two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners pilfering items from luggage investigators had baited with valuable items.

Authorities then secured search warrants for the suspects' homes, where they seized hundreds of stolen cameras, lap-tops, CDs, clothing, jewelry, and hand-held devices. Evidence suggests the screeners systematically lifted items from passenger's checked luggage and traded them for cash at pawn shops. If convicted, the two screeners face up to seven and four years in prison, respectively.

Washington D.C. - Dulles

Emmanuel Osho, 49, who supervised baggage handling for United Airlines at Dulles, could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine when he is sentenced Oct. 14 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Osho admitted during a plea hearing Wednesday that he would rifle through pallets of undelivered mail arriving as cargo on United flights and pluck out envelopes that appeared to contain new or reissued credit cards, stuffing them into a black duffel bag.

Prosecutors estimated that Osho stole roughly 2,000 credit cards from October 2003 to January 2005. Osho sent the credit cards to Brooklyn, N.Y., to a coconspirator, Ademola Idowu, who then distributed the cards to others who would use them up and down the East Coast to obtain fraudulent cash advances.
Cincinnati: The link has an interview on a T.V. station.

Multiple U.S. Airports

While there have been some successful prosecutions, in at least one case the T.S.A. let a screener off the hook. Last year, video cameras recorded a Miami screener stealing CD's from checked luggage. But criminal charges were dropped after the screener's lawyer made it clear that he planned to ask a government official about T.S.A. operations at the trial.

The possibilities for mischief are considerable. Congress requires the transportation agency to check all airline baggage with bomb-detection machinery or with hand-held bomb detectors. More than $5 billion has been spent by the government and airports to purchase and install the new equipment. Unfortunately, the machines are unreliable. In 2002, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta told Congress that the machines have a false-positive rate of 35 percent - and if a bag tests positive, it must be searched by hand. To do this, agents routinely examine baggage in closed areas, far from prying eyes.
I found a list of U.S. airports and the amount of theft reported to the TSA through 8/31/04. I also found a list of U.S. airports and their passenger traffic statistics for 2004. It's very interesting to compare the two - Anchorage with 4.88 million travelers had a reported theft amount of $43, 489.44 through 8/31/04. However, Kansas City, with just over 10 million travlers, reported a theft amount of only $21,489.84. It makes me wonder if there is even a standardized reporting procedure.

I know friends who have had IPods, cameras, even lingerie (creepy!) stolen out of their bags. I'd be interested to hear others opinions.


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