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200 thefts per day reported at JFK Airport

JFK Airport, scene of the crime
JFK Airport, scene of the crime
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

When you check your bags at the airport, you probably don’t think of it as gambling. But a report from CBS New York suggests that’s exactly what it is. And the gamble at one major airport cost one passenger $160,000.

The report notes that 200 thefts occur each day at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York’s busiest. “Cash, jewelry, electronics and other valuables,” the article states, “are being stolen from passengers’ baggage at a staggering rate.”

The thefts are perpetrated by baggage handlers, jetway workers, and—you guessed it—the people there to provide security against crime involving passengers and their belongings.

Kenneth Mollins, a JFK security lawyer, is quoted as saying:

The belly of the airplane has become like a flea market for airport employees. They go in there and go through all the luggage unencumbered, unchecked.

Mollins is representing a passenger named Rita Lamberg, who lost the aforementioned $160,000 in watches, rings and necklaces that she entrusted to airport employees when she surrendered her luggage for transport.

The thieves are reported to have been so successful that they have begun engaging in “luggage profiling.” They focus not only on the most expensive bags that come down the conveyor, but they also check the home address of the traveler. Those with tony Scarsdale or North Woodmere zip codes are more likely to become victims of this unconscionable racket.

A former NYPD detective Frank Shea has been retained by other hapless travelers who were ripped off at the airport. He is quoted as saying:

What we’re seeing out there is that really anything that isn’t nailed down is being stolen and for that matter I would caution, some day, if there weren’t tires missing from an aircraft.

It’s really occurring on the tarmac or as it’s being loaded onto the aircraft.

Sometimes they get loaded into the back of one of the vehicles out at the airport. They’re searched through. They can be discarded as rubbish. Other times they are leaving the airport grounds.

Those who rely exclusively on carry-on luggage are mistaken if they assume they are unaffected by these thefts. As attorney Mollins notes, “Fares go up clearly because of this. It’s a cost of doing business. [Airlines] pay out [claims for stolen property] and they hide the fact.”

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