NBC6 Investigates: Airport Thievery A Growing Problem

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Airport security may have improved, but one area that continues to be lacking is the security of your belongings when going through the TSA screening. NBC 6 Investigator Willard Shepard reports. (Published Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014)

    Yolanda Barrandes says during a recent trip home to Costa Rica, she lost her jewelry at the airport and her faith in human kind. Her engagement and wedding rings vanished at a security checkpoint at Fort Lauderdale International Airport during her travel 16 months ago.

    Barrandes, racing for a flight, accidentally dropped her rings at the security checkpoint. Broward Sheriff’s detectives said they have images of another passenger who they believe snatched the rings.

    In Spanish, Barrandes said, “It’s shocking. After all, in this country where the security is incredible, that this could happen.”

    The thief, along with Barrandes’ rings, is still at large.

    Sari Koshetz, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration said, “Passenger-on-passenger theft inside the checkpoint, unfortunately, is a big issue.”

    TSA agents at Miami International Airport said they see these thefts once or twice a week; passengers grabbing other people’s stuff from bins where they were placed for safe passage through the security checkpoint.

    “People will just say I found it, but they saw who had it. They were in line behind them,” Broward Sheriff’s Office Captain Roy Lidicott told Team 6 Investigators.

    Another surveillance video Fort Lauderdale International showed passenger Igor Ramos grabbing a $6,500 Rolex from a bin.

    “He said the same thing; he found it. It just fell in a bin in front of him by golly!” said Lidicott.

    Detectives tracked down Ramos after his trip. They said when he answered the door; the stolen watch was on his wrist.

    “What can you say--you’re under arrest,” said Captain Lidicott.

    Ramos pled no contest to theft.

    At MIA, police regularly conduct stings to fight theft. On the day the Team 6 Investigators observed police, a detective posed as a passenger and left behind an iPad while officers watched for potential thieves.

    Police said solving these cases can be tough because people can escape in minutes with the stolen booty in tow.

    Another recent passenger was caught red-handed on security camera video spotting a fanny pack with $2,200 cash inside. He passed it to his companion. Police were waiting for them at the gate. The two entered a special program to avoid further prosecution.

    “Thefts happen everywhere here,” Miami-Dade Police Detective Kalika Parker said.

    From 2011 to 2013, more than 1500 thefts were reported at MIA, 200 of them at the checkpoints. Police said most of them happen because of carelessness -- people leaving their belongings behind every day —some of them pricy -- laptops and jewelry, among others.

    “We do wonder how could they leave this behind—even as valuable as a bag of ten thousand dollars,” said Parker

    TSA agents recommend you wait for your belongings to enter the x-ray machine before you enter the body scanner. They also said not to remove all your jewelry, put valuables like cell phones inside carry-on bags and hold onto your wallet when you go through the body scanner.

    Police said most passengers are honest; when NBC6 investigators watched, no one grabbed the iPad the detective planted. But, they said there are a few bad apples and they can ruin your trip.

    “Most of them didn’t come here with the intention to steal but they see that laptop they see that $5000 watch,” said Capt. Lidicott. “They’re overwhelmed with greed I suppose and they just grab it.”

    Detectives say stealing something someone left behind is not a case of “finders keepers.” It’s a crime and if the item is worth more than $300 it can be a felony.