If you've ever lost your luggage while traveling, it is frustrating, to say the least. Now think how angry you'll be if your bags made it all the way to Atlanta's South Terminal baggage claim and a thief stole them minutes, maybe even seconds before you made it to the carousel.
That scenario, according to an airport worker, plays out weekly.
The airport informant did not want to be identified for fear of losing his job, but said he felt raising awareness about the problems he sees every day was worth the risk.
"I have to come to the media to be a whistleblower," the worker said. "But, why can't I go to my management and say this is a serious problem? They need to have more concerns about their passengers' bags. Have somebody at every carousel. It is obviously a major problem and they just need to focus on it."
CBS Atlanta News obtained documents from March 2012 to December 2012 that show multiple incidents of luggage theft. Out of more than 25 reports, a majority took place in the South Terminal baggage claim. Our airport informant said there are a couple reasons why.
"The airlines on the north end have hired a contractor to stand out there and they have yellow vests and security badge," the worker said. "After-hours, or during breaks, there is nobody there, and half the time the police are watching TV. You will have three or four cops watching TV there, and you hear the radio chatter and it's almost like they aren't listening."
CBS Atlanta News spent multiple days for hours upon hours watching the North and South Terminal baggage claim area. During that time, only the North Terminal security checked claim tickets to correspond with checked luggage. We did see hired security in the South Terminal, but not once did a worker check a claim ticket.
CBS Atlanta's Mike Paluska made multiple attempts to have a sit-down, on-camera interview with Delta Air Lines, but they only released a statement:
"Any instance of theft is unacceptable. Delta takes the care for our customers' property seriously and works with law enforcement around the world to abate carousel theft. In Atlanta, Delta uses a number of overt and covert security measures including surveillance by video and by employees. We continue to work with the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department to deter theft," Delta representative Morgan Durrant said.
The surveillance video obtained by CBS Atlanta shows numerous thefts of luggage. In one video, a man police identified as a thief, loads a push cart full of five pieces of luggage then walks them out to a waiting car. Nearly 10 minutes passed from the time he started loading luggage to the time he walked out of the building. Not once did any security or police question the thief.
Our informant said that some of the suspects will wear a suit and tie to blend in with the crowd. Others will put fake bag tags on the luggage they steal off the carousels.
"These guys are professionals, you would think they would go for a single bag in the open," the worker said. "But, they go for the new flight just coming in. There will be a hundred people standing around the carousel and they'll just grab a bag from there, and it looks like a normal guy, a passenger on the plane. And that is the sad part, because they think, 'Oh, the airline lost my bag.'"
In some of the reports victims had their bags stolen moments before the passenger made it to the carousel. In one report, a victim reported her luggage as missing, tried to find it, and when all attempts were unsuccessful she left the airport. Before getting into her car she saw her bag getting carried away by someone and was able to alert police, who made an arrest.
Not everyone gets that lucky. And according to our informant, these thefts can be cut back or stopped with more security.
"Hire some experts to come watch the carousels," the worker said. "We want to be a world-class airport, don't we? This is Atlanta, the busiest airport in the world, and no one is saying anything because of embarrassment, it would embarrass the whole airport, not just Delta."
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