Efforts to stop luggage thieves paying off

LAS VEGAS -- Luggage theft is a problem at airports around the country and McCarran International Airport was reportedly one of the worst in the world, until police stepped in and got a handle on the problem.

McCarran International Airport is a very busy place. About 60,000 people arrive here from all over the world every day. Many check their bags because of strict airline rules.

It is a well-oiled machine. The constant flow of bags and passengers never ends. The majority of the time, checked bags are reunited with passengers at baggage claim.

But some times the bags don't make it and it is not always the airline that loses bags.

"People come in, it is an opportunity. They consider it easy pickings, and they take the bag and they pawn the goods. They sell the bags on Craigslist and make a hundred bucks," Metro Police Lt. Dennis Domansky said.

Police say the thieves have targeted high-end designer bags, but they really don't discriminate.

Despite the police presence at baggage claim, they will steal bags, day or night, and walk out like they own them.

"We've caught people with four, five or six bags in their car when we do catch them," Lt. Domansky said.

A police source says, during a four month period last year, Delta Airlines paid out $500,000 in stolen bag claims at McCarran. That is the most of any worldwide location that Delta services. About 50 bags a month were being ripped off, but a focus by Metro Police has slowed that trend.

"This is a leisure destination. For the most part, people choose to come to Las Vegas. If they have anything that leaves a bad taste in their mouth, the next time they make a decision about where they are going to travel, maybe they say, ‘you know what, let's go somewhere else,'" McCarran Airport spokesperson Chris Jones said.

Jones says the airlines made a tough choice years ago on how to protect their customers' bags.

"It really went away after 9/11. There is a cost involved with that obviously, if there are people there, you have to pay the labor. And after 9/11 airlines shifted their focus to other areas," Jones said.

Police say this crime comes in waves. It will go away and then come back. Police say the best thing is to go straight from the gate to baggage claim.

Police have arrested 20 people for stealing bags, so far this year. Police have an 80 percent success rate in recovering stolen bags, so they advise people to file a report.

Often times they recover stolen bags, but can't track down the owners.


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