SALT LAKE CITY — More than 20,000 people make their way through Salt Lake International Airport every day, but how many travelers have their luggage stolen?
It happened to Matt Boehme, a band member with the Utah National Guard. His bag was inadvertently left off his flight, so Delta put it on the next one to Salt Lake. Boehme arrived at the airport to pick it up shortly after that plane landed, but someone had already swiped his bag from the luggage carousel. Read more Salt Lake Airport lost and found
“Everybody else’s bags came,” said Boehme. “Everybody left, and I had no bag.”
Boehme was recently invited to Guam as part of a Mobile Training Team, teaching music to young people. He packed his bag full of essentials for the weeklong trip.
“I had uniforms, two berets and a couple of baseball caps, long ties, bow ties, combat boots, nametags, name plates, dress shirts, a camera full of pictures,” Boehme said, reading off a list of missing items. “I was upwards of $3,700.” Read more Salt Lake Airport lost Property
But what he carried back with him on his way home had more sentimental value: personal gifts from the Guam National Guard.
“That’s the necklace they gave each of us,” said Boehme as he showed KSL pictures of the now-lost items. “They were neat. Now they’re gone.”
Boehme’s bag wasn’t lost. The airline said it was scanned when it was taken off the plane. A picture taken from airport surveillance shows a man believed to have walked off with Boehme’s bag.
“In the officer’s words, he looked around to see if anybody else was close before he walked over and grabbed it and walked out with it,” said Boehme. “Somebody just walked away with it and that was their excuse. Sorry, somebody walked away with your bag. Hopefully we’ll get it back.”
Salt Lake International Police Chief Craig Vargo said there is no logical pattern to the number of baggage thefts in recent history.
“Access and opportunity opens up the ability to have theft,” Vargo said.
KSL Investigators pulled the numbers and found in the past five years there have been anywhere from five to 32 bags swiped from the carousels each year. Compare that with the 20,000-plus travelers going through the airport every single day, and the numbers are relatively low.
“We patrol, we interact, we investigate,” Vargo said. “We do everything we can possibly do to make sure criminals who come out here for unlawful purposes don’t get away with it.”
In the past few years, airport police caught a man stealing a bag with contents valued at $1,700. They also arrested a man and woman who grabbed more than $7,000 in luggage and property right off the carousel on multiple occasions.
“I have to show a receipt to get a bag of chips out of Costco, but somebody can walk up and grab my luggage and walk out of the airport with it. How does that work?” asked Boehme.
KSL Investigators asked Vargo if he felt there needs to be someone checking baggage claim stickers to ensure people are taking their own bags.
“Not necessarily,” said Vargo. “That’s a business decision that the airport and the airlines have to make.”
It’s a business decision that financially makes a lot of sense for the airlines. Why spend money on someone checking tags, when roughly .03 percent of the bags in Salt Lake are stolen?
But if you’re anything like Boehme and coming home from a once-in-a-lifetime trip, it’s certainly tough to put a price tag on your bag of possessions.
“That’s stuff I can’t replace,” said Boehme.
AVOIDING LUGGAGE THEFT
Don’t check bags: If you pack lightly you can handle more trips with just a carry-on, which will also spare you from paying baggage fees.
Keep valuables with you: If it’s that important to you (electronics, important documents), don’t put it in a suitcase in the belly of the plane.
Make your bag stand out: Law enforcement officials will tell you that criminals go after the nondescript, common bags because they don’t want attention drawn to themselves. Consider buying brightly colored or oddly shaped luggage, or add neon-colored tape to the luggage you already own.
Don’t dilly-dally: Once you get off the plane, go straight to baggage claim and stand in front of the carousel, even before the first bags come rolling through.
Consider insurance: So-called bundled trip-insurance policies, which combine several types of coverage, typically include at least some compensation for baggage loss.
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