Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Watch Your Bags, Wallets and Cars

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Watch Your Bags, Wallets and Cars

Article excerpt

FORT WORTH -- High-tech security abounds at airports, but nothing can separate a passenger from his property quicker than a short attention span.

"Most people that are victims -- God love `em -- weren't paying attention. They left their suitcases behind while going to the bathroom or they asked someone else to watch their baggage, or they left jewelry behind while they were washing their hands," said Avry Dodson, who as director of the Department of Public Safety oversees Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

"People are leaving valuables in plain view," said Benjamin DeCosta, general manager of Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

Most airport security is focused on major breaches, such as terrorism. The amount of crime at the nation's airports is not monitored by any federal agencies unless it has a special relation to aviation safety.

"Security is through the Federal Aviation Administration, but that's oriented only to terrorism and contraband goods that threaten flights," said Bill Mosley, a spokesman with the Department of Transportation.

The airlines do report mishandled baggage, which could be stolen, but otherwise "street" crime is considered a local issue and not monitored on a national level, he said.

Instead, law enforcement concentrates on the trends it finds in its own backyard.

At Hartsfield, the world's busiest airport with about 73.5 million passengers annually, larceny is the crime of the year. According to police statistics compiled by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, theft has climbed 26 percent for the first four months this year.

Car thefts also have gone up, doubling from 107 in 1997 to 215 last year.

A 9 percent increase in passenger volume could be partly to blame for the rising thefts, but DeCosta said he's investigating whether a theft ring is canvassing the airport.

At D-FW, missing vehicles are the bigger problem.

"In the last year we had 180 vehicles stolen from rental agencies," said Dodson. "These are not random thefts. Most of these are employee related. We recover over 80 percent of the rental cars that are stolen."

Airline employees also have sometimes been the issue when theft occurs.

This April at D-FW, 10 baggage handlers were arrested for stealing property from about 500 bags bound for flights on American Trans Air, British Airways, Korean Airlines and Lufthansa. …

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