News Article - June 21 2006

Crackdown on Baggage Theft at PHL
  A high alert has been issued at airports around the country that someone is stealing weapons from checked baggage, and that includes Philadelphia International Airport. A federal investigation is focusing on the people who load and unload baggage and the people who screen it at security checkpoints. Officials say the crackdown started after there was spike in weapons thefts in the beginning of the year. No arrests have been made, but both agencies and Philadelphia Police say this is a serious concern.

   TSA and ATF received information on Tuesday that someone at the Philadelphia International airport may have been planning to steal a weapon. The agencies surrounded a US Air flight. Officials interviewed both airline and airport employees. "The information led us to the belly of the plane and that's where the investigation started," said John Hageman, ATF spokesperson.

   An investigation that did not lead to any arrests, but both TSA and ATF say the investigation into a spike in weapon thefts from checked baggage is not over. "Any time there's been a theft of a weapon that's of great concern to us especially with the ongoing violence in the city," said Philadelphia Police Lt. Louis Liberati. Here's part of the problem: Owners are required to secure an unloaded weopon in a hard, locked case. Instead of packing it in their suitcases, many check the weapons in its orginal case, making it easily identifiable.

   "Now someone that's hanging around the baggage claim sees there's a gun or should be a gun in that package," said Liberati. To help deter thefts the TSA has been pushing for cameras in areas where airport and airline employees handle baggage. The TSA reports since August of 2002, 87 security officers have been fired for theft. At least two of those were stationed in Philadelphia.

   The airlines did not give us a figure on how many baggage handlers were removed from the job for stealing. All airport and airline employees undergo a criminal background check, but police say that's not guarantee. Anyone with a record is not permitted to work at the airport that doesn't mean that someone without a record wouldn't be tempted to commit a crime. USAir says they have not been asked to cooperate in the investigation, but if they are asked, they will cooperate.

Source - 6ABC