DETROIT - When you travel, you might pack very valuable or expensive items in your luggage like jewelry, cell phones or even cash. All of these items, however, were recently reported stolen from checked baggage at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport. But this could happen anywhere no matter where your destination.
What happens in between the time you check your bags at the ticket counter and pick them up at baggage claim? If you thought they were safe and secure by trusted security, think again.
"I've had stuff actually stolen out of my checked baggage before," said traveler Tonya Lobach. "I've had some stuff put in there and got to my destination and it was gone. It's supposed to be secure area, everything is secure but it's not."
There are thousands of bags that pass through the airport every day. Is what's inside yours safe once you check in?
"Once it's through the screening systems and it's sitting on the piers there waiting to be on the plane it's true, there are people that have access to your bags," said Airport Police spokesperson Michael Conway.
So, just how secure are bags here at Detroit Metropolitan Airport?
Public records show there were four reports of thefts from baggage in the past six months out of the millions of people who checked bags during that time.
That's a pretty low number for such a busy airport. But still, just how and what things were stolen might make you think twice about what you put in your checked bags the next time you fly.
Once your bag is checked it's screened securely by TSA officials on camera.
"Once it leaves the TSA screening process then it's up the airlines or their contracted employees to get it off those, put it on the correct belt, to go into the right cart, to go into the right aircraft," said Conway.
That part, however, is not videotaped.
Luis Rivera, 43, saw this as an opportunity.
"He said he saw the phone sitting in a bin by itself as if it had fallen out of a bag," said Conway. "He just picked it up, crime of opportunity. Took it to the store and sold it for 25 bucks."
Airport police records show a cell phone was reported stolen and sold to Metro PCS. Rivera, an airport employee at the time, was seen on surveillance video selling it for a whopping 25 dollars.
Once contacted by police he confessed and was fired. Other records show a report of more than $500 in cash stolen from checked baggage as well as an expensive pair of Tiffany's cufflinks. Even more alarming, guns, properly checked--gone. The cases, with tags removed--empty.
"That man did everything right," explained Conway. "He had them in an approved case that was locked and it was part of checked luggage."
Conway considers the number of thefts reported here at DTW to be low when compared to the number of travelers overall. Still it's important to protect yourself whichever airport you're traveling through.
"You are allowed to use locks on your bags but they must be TSA approved.
TSA has a master key to approved locks so once your luggage goes past them no one else should be able to break into it.
You can find out which locks are approved by visiting: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/baggage-locks.
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