Travelers Beware — Jack Dunphy

 

Are you planning on traveling by air soon?  Here’s a story to keep in mind when you pack your bags.  Police in Los Angeles have arrested six LAX baggage handlers and are seeking others involved in the theft of valuables from checked luggage.  “Basically everything of value — be it electronics, jewelry and items — that could be stolen in seconds would be removed from bags,” LAX Police Chief Pat Gannon told the Los Angeles Times. “They’d just open up the suitcases and rifle through them and pocket valuables.”

Anyone who has spent time around an airport knows there is no such thing as secure luggage, especially when TSA rules prevent you from locking your bags in the first place. But few travelers realize how exposed their luggage is as it makes its way from the airport ticket counter or skycap stand to the carousel at their destination airport. Any number of TSA screeners, airline employees, and contract workers have access to checked luggage, and the dark recesses beneath the terminal through which your bags must pass on their way to and from the airplanes provide an ideal environment to anyone wishing to rifle through a suitcase and come away with a camera, some jewelry, or anything else a thief may desire. A Google search of the phrase “baggage handler arrested” yields about 229,000 hits.  “TSA screener arrested” yields 70,100.

And if you forget something at your seat when you arrive at your destination, you might as well forget about it. It was once my misfortune to leave an iPod and a pair of Bose headphones in my seat pocket on a flight from New York to San Francisco. I realized my mistake before leaving the airport and made my way back to the plane before it left on the next flight. My things were gone, and could only have been discovered by someone from the cabin-cleaning crew. My appeals to representatives from the airline were met with a shrug. “Maybe they’ll turn up,” I was told. Sure, I thought, and maybe Judge Crater will too.

Some years ago, an investigation I was involved in took me to LAX and all the way to the cargo hold of an airliner, and I was surprised to find gang graffiti scrawled on the interior bulkhead as though it was a wall in some South-Central alleyway. It was a revelatory moment, and I came to learn this was common. The bottom line is this: any airport is a den of thieves, and anything you hope to keep beyond the duration of your trip should be kept within your view at all times. 

You’ve been warned. Have a nice trip.

 

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Are You familiar with this story?

    Denver police say they are “actively investigating” a new airport bag theft that occurred just a few feet away and at precisely the same time that police and airport administrators were being interviewed by CBS4 about how few bag thefts they have at the airport.

    • #1
  2. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Jimmy Carter:
    Are You familiar with this story?

    Denver police say they are “actively investigating” a new airport bag theft that occurred just a few feet away and at precisely the same time that police and airport administrators were being interviewed by CBS4 about how few bag thefts they have at the airport.

     Too rich!

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    This really should be common sense.

    When you hand something over to the care of complete strangers, whether it be a piece of luggage, a piece of mail, or an electronic stream of zeroes and ones, and you do not take any steps to secure it with locks, seals, and/or encryption, then you must always assume that it will be intercepted, inspected, stolen, copied, archived, and/or used against you at a later date.

    I will never understand why in heavens name anybody could possibly think it’s a good idea to trust complete strangers with their most precious stuff.

    Don’t leave a diamond necklace in your checked luggage, don’t write sensitive information on a postcard, and don’t transmit unencrypted signals unless you don’t care who intercepts ’em.

    It’s a simple rule that’s been true for at least 4,000 years!

    • #3
  4. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Jack Dunphy: Are you planning on traveling by air soon? Here’s a story to keep in mind when you pack your bags. Police in Los Angeles have arrested six LAX baggage handlers and are seeking others involved in the theft of valuables from checked luggage.

    The Rattlesnake household has not traveled by air for several years now. The FAA advises travelers to pack prescription medications in carry-on luggage so they will not be “lost” during checked luggage handling.

    Yet I now  expect  TSA agents to treat me as a suspected drug-dealer/terrorist when I pack prescriptions carry-on, even though I carefully follow their guidelines. The TSA handlers I’ve had the privilege to meet are rubbish at recognizing odd but perfectly harmless items. To  themtubes of Voltaren gel and Advair Diskus inhalers read as potential explosive devices, and persons as young as me couldn’t  possibly  be carrying obscure prescription pills for reasons other than recreational use.

    It was, ironically, easier right after 9/11. Back then, I had no problem getting an entire container of refrigerated IV medication bags through carry-on security. Good thing I no longer need IV meds now.

    • #4
  5. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    The Rattlesnake household has not traveled by air for several years now.

    Actually, I haven’t travelled in the United States at all since they started making Canadians carry passports.

    • #5
  6. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    I’ve been able to hitch a ride on the company jet a few times, and it spoiled me forever. Arrive 20 minutes before takeoff. Free parking, right at the terminal. Meet the flight crew, bring your bags on board, and wheels up. No intrusive poking and prodding, either of my person or my luggage.

    As a general rule, I don’t fantasize about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I don’t want fancy clothes, or a fancy car, or fancy accommodations. But there is one thing that I would love to be able afford some day: Nothing beats private air travel.

    • #6
  7. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    A lock only keeps the honest people straight. Just don’t put anything you can’t afford to lose in your checked baggage.

    • #7
  8. flownover Inactive
    flownover
    @flownover

    And we get pay for the privilege of checking a bag as well !

    Is it any surprise that this blatant thievery all takes place within the confines of a publicly funded building ? 

    • #8
  9. user_435274 Thatcher
    user_435274
    @JohnHanson

    I had a cell phone stolen out of a backpack I was wearing at the time, in the LAX terminal back in December.    Also “Lost” a wedding ring clearing security at Newark NJ (EWR), didn’t notice it was gone from bin after clearing through for 5 minutes or so, went back, but of course no one could find it.   It was heavy 18 ct gold, couple of ounces, so rather valuable nowadays.   Wife NOT happy I lost wedding ring, but if I didn’t take it off, it always tripped metal detectors and resulted in special search status, so I had been taking it off for the last 20 years, finally caught up to me!   So bad things do happen, a lot.

    • #9
  10. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    I travel 4-6 legs monthly. I generally bring a weapon, so I am required to have it locked in my suitcase. Sometimes TSA looks at the bag with the x-ray and puts tape around it; sometimes not. No rhyme or reason to when they do and when they don’t. Just like sometimes I fill out two slips for firearm and one goes in the suitcase, sometimes one (which goes in the suitcase). But other than that, I send NO valuables through the checked bags. Only my scrubs and change of clothes. Lately I have had my bag “lost” an unusual number of times, albeit it has always been found and brought to me on the next flight. Still, it is disconcerting. I once owned a Bonanza, and that was the way to travel. No one paws through your bags, no one makes you pass through any detectors or other silliness. You can be armed if you so wish. You can bring a weapon in any form that you wish. If I only still had that airplane, I would fly on the airlines only rarely. And you’re never late for a flight!

    • #10
  11. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Devereaux: Just like sometimes I fill out two slips for firearm and one goes in the suitcase, sometimes one (which goes in the suitcase).

     I’ve never tried it, but there are suggestions that the best way to protect valuable or fragile items is to pack them with a firearm. The case is then closed and sealed in front of you, and TSA regulations prohibit anyone from opening the case in transit.

    • #11
  12. Boymoose Inactive
    Boymoose
    @Boymoose

    TSA locks buy em, use em, love em.  The TSA can unlock your bag but they are required to tell you they did so.  Usually with a note.  We travel with 150 lbs of expensive gear.  We have not had anything go missing.

    • #12
  13. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Boymoose:
    TSA locks buy em, use em, love em. The TSA can unlock your bag but they are required to tell you they did so. Usually with a note. We travel with 150 lbs of expensive gear. We have not had anything go missing.

     Wonderful, unless the TSA guy is himself a thief.

    • #13
  14. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Son of Spengler:

    Devereaux: Just like sometimes I fill out two slips for firearm and one goes in the suitcase, sometimes one (which goes in the suitcase).

    I’ve never tried it, but there are suggestions that the best way to protect valuable or fragile items is to pack them with a firearm. The case is then closed and sealed in front of you, and TSA regulations prohibit anyone from opening the case in transit.

     I’m leery of taking a gun when I travel because so many people have to be informed of the gun’s presence in my luggage.  Yes, the case is sealed by the TSA, but then heaven knows who has access to it in transit.  I can’t fly armed unless traveling on official business, but I don’t trust the ramp rats with access to my luggage.

    • #14
  15. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    Boymoose:
    TSA locks buy em, use em, love em. The TSA can unlock your bag but they are required to tell you they did so. Usually with a note. We travel with 150 lbs of expensive gear. We have not had anything go missing.
    I travel with quite a few hand tools.  I have one screwdriver that is extra long.  I need it for one particular piece of equipment I work on.  I use TSA locks on my tool bag.  EVERY time I flew, I had a note that the TSA had inspected my bag inside the bag and it was re-locked.  EVERY time, that particular screwdriver went missing.  I now ship the tools in the tool bag in a carton via FedEx to the hotel to await my arrival.  It’s cheaper than replacing that darn tool every time.

     

    • #15
  16. user_19985 Thatcher
    user_19985
    @StevenPotter

    I use either the TSA locks or small zip-ties through the zipper mechanism to keep it shut.  It’s not fool proof, but it makes the bags a harder target than someone’s bag that can be easily opened.  TSA can still open the bag if they need to but it keeps the baggage handlers out.

    The only problem I had with TSA locks was the TSA themselves.  Went to Denver for a snowboarding trip and I put three TSA locks on the compartments for my snowboard bag.  TSA unlocked all of them and then closed each lock on a single zipper so all compartments were then unsecure.  On the way back to Seattle, at least they locked it back up after examining the contents.

    • #16
  17. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    If the republican party wants to get crossover votes, they ought to campaign on a promise to get rid of the TSA and government airport screeners.  I get so grumpy whenever I fly because I feel like I’m living in the USSR or some other totalitarian state.

    A hundred years ago if a low level government functionary tried to inspect your baggage and look at your wife and children naked before you could travel about the country, they would have been shot dead and no one would have questioned why.  We don’t even know what a free country is anymore.

    • #17
  18. Eeyore Member
    Eeyore
    @Eeyore

    When I lived in Tucson, I had a friend who traveled frequently to Mexico by car. He said he relaxed by assuming everything he had, including his car, belonged to Mexico. That way, he traveled worry-free – knowing that he would never lose anything that belonged to him.

    • #18
  19. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    John Hanson:
    I had a cell phone stolen out of a backpack I was wearing at the time, in the LAX terminal back in December. Also “Lost” a wedding ring clearing security at Newark NJ (EWR), didn’t notice it was gone from bin after clearing through for 5 minutes or so, went back, but of course no one could find it. It was heavy 18 ct gold, couple of ounces, so rather valuable nowadays. Wife NOT happy I lost wedding ring, but if I didn’t take it off, it always tripped metal detectors and resulted in special search status, so I had been taking it off for the last 20 years, finally caught up to me! So bad things do happen, a lot.

     There’s a special joy in making the TSA do a search. I never go through the x-ray machine, making for some “interesting” times. Once a dope in San Antonio made the stupid comment he would have to start over if I interrupted him. Being early for my flight, we played – at least 20 minutes, until the supervisor finally came over and made the guy just search me.

    The other thing is to not talk to them. They hate it.

    • #19
  20. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Jack Dunphy:

    Son of Spengler:

    Devereaux: Just like sometimes I fill out two slips for firearm and one goes in the suitcase, sometimes one (which goes in the suitcase).

    I’ve never tried it, but there are suggestions that the best way to protect valuable or fragile items is to pack them with a firearm. The case is then closed and sealed in front of you, and TSA regulations prohibit anyone from opening the case in transit.

    I’m leery of taking a gun when I travel because so many people have to be informed of the gun’s presence in my luggage. Yes the case is sealed by the TSA, but then heaven knows who has access to it in transit. I can’t fly armed unless traveling on official business, but I don’t trust the ramp rats with access to my luggage.

     I take a weapon that I wouldn’t feel badly about potentially losing. And the NOISE that you could raise for such a loss! But I would not take one of my Sig’s, or a better 1911. Mostly I bring a PPK/S or a Shield. Neither of those is expensive, nor “worked on”.

    But I do believe the airlines and TSA worries more about weapons. And there’s always insurance you can take out.

    • #20
  21. user_49770 Inactive
    user_49770
    @wilberforge

    For what it’s worth, learning comes by doing something. One has avoided air travel in large part due to the absurdities of the TSA. One glaring, perhaps notion of overreaction, was to be selected for scrutiny for having a block of Tillamook Cheese in the carry-on bag.. How nice to have an explosives check  done on one’s bags and person under such tolerant eyes. In any event, had been a frequent flyer in the mid 80’s and 90’s was married to a Flight Attendant. Behind the scenes security was a nod and a hello. And we were armed. Ghasty and  unthinkable by todays standards . In point of fact, the TSA is nothing more than an old style “Government Make Work Project”. Populated by the unemployable in the real world for PR purposes.  And Yes, I will go to the Hot Place for stating that. My choice.

    • #21
  22. Jack Dunphy Contributor
    Jack Dunphy
    @JackDunphy

    Steven Potter: . . .TSA can still open the bag if they need to but it keeps the baggage handlers out . . .

    Sorry to give you bad news, but luggage with a zipper won’t keep anyone out.  The zipper can be opened with a ballpoint pen or similar tool, and the bag can then be zipped closed to give the appearance of being undisturbed.  You’ll only know someone was in there when you discover something missing.

    • #22
  23. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Boymoose:
     We travel with 150 lbs of expensive gear. We have not had anything go missing.

    Let me guess. Camera gear? Your photos are lovely, incidentally. Landscape photography is like my husband’s second (but alas non-paying) job. He’s gotten me rather good at it, too. But your photos… wow! It’s something for me to aspire to, certainly.

    Hubby’s had such bad luck with flying with his camera gear that we limit ourselves to road trips mostly. Did one flight with his camera gear right after we were married. It was awful.

    • #23
  24. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    Jack Dunphy:

    Boymoose: TSA locks buy em, use em, love em. The TSA can unlock your bag but they are required to tell you they did so. Usually with a note. We travel with 150 lbs of expensive gear. We have not had anything go missing.

    Wonderful, unless the TSA guy is himself a thief.

    Someone I know well has had prescription drugs stolen on multiple occasions by the TSA guy at the screening area–in other words, drugs in his carry-on (he takes medication for sleep and for anxiety on the plane).  When I have traveled, the TSA person has always inspected my luggage in front of me, but he says that in his case they have occasionally said that they need to take his luggage away to inspect it, and then brought it back.  

    • #24
  25. user_333118 Inactive
    user_333118
    @BarbaraKidder

    Your post and the many interesting comments serve as a good reminder to keep one’s luggage to just ‘carry-on’, if at all possible.

     Last time I visited family in Iowa I mailed stuff beforehand for the grandchildren,  just so I could avoid having to ‘check’ luggage.  

    Now you have intensified my resolve! 

    Thank you.

    • #25
  26. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Lucy Pevensie:

    Jack Dunphy:

    Boymoose: TSA locks buy em, use em, love em. The TSA can unlock your bag but they are required to tell you they did so. Usually with a note. We travel with 150 lbs of expensive gear. We have not had anything go missing.

    Wonderful, unless the TSA guy is himself a thief.

    Someone I know well has had prescription drugs stolen on multiple occasions by the TSA guy at the screening area–in other words, drugs in his carry-on (he takes medication for sleep and for anxiety on the plane). When I have traveled, the TSA person has always inspected my luggage in front of me, but he says that in his case they have occasionally said that they need to take his luggage away to inspect it, and then brought it back.

     They are not allowed to take it out of your sight. One needs to insist that one’s things stay in sight. I ALWAYS make that point when being searched (I don’t go through x-ray machines).

    • #26
  27. Lucy Pevensie Inactive
    Lucy Pevensie
    @LucyPevensie

    Devereaux:

    Lucy Pevensie:

    Jack Dunphy:

    Boymoose: TSA locks buy em, use em, love em. The TSA can unlock your bag but they are required to tell you they did so. Usually with a note. We travel with 150 lbs of expensive gear. We have not had anything go missing.

    Wonderful, unless the TSA guy is himself a thief.

    Someone I know well has had prescription drugs stolen on multiple occasions by the TSA guy at the screening area–in other words, drugs in his carry-on (he takes medication for sleep and for anxiety on the plane). When I have traveled, the TSA person has always inspected my luggage in front of me, but he says that in his case they have occasionally said that they need to take his luggage away to inspect it, and then brought it back.

    They are not allowed to take it out of your sight. One needs to insist that one’s things stay in sight. I ALWAYS make that point when being searched (I don’t go through x-ray machines).

     Easier said than done when one is in the vulnerable position of an air traveler these days.

    • #27
  28. Indaba Member
    Indaba
    @

    sounds like South Africa where you can get your bag spun in plastic wrap and there are machines to do it. just 100 Rand.

    • #28
  29. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Sounds to me like the TSA are all crooks.

    Frankly, I don’t really trust any sort of officer of the state these days. Too much power over my life rests in the hands of other simply because they work for the government. From the TSA goons, to the guy that pulls me over for no reason in the hope I am driving drunk.

    Jack, I am sure you do good service, but from where I sit, the government agents have too much power to make my life into a hell.

    • #29
  30. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Devereaux: I take a weapon that I wouldn’t feel badly about potentially losing. And the NOISE that you could raise for such a loss! But I would not take one of my Sig’s, or a better 1911. Mostly I bring a PPK/S or a Shield. Neither of those is expensive, nor “worked on”. But I do believe the airlines and TSA worries more about weapons. And there’s always insurance you can take out.

     The article at the link I posted suggests using a starter pistol, which does not require a permit and is inexpensive, yet is considered a firearm by the TSA.

    • #30
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