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Passengers claim luggage, personal items stolen by TSA

7:08 PM, Jun 6, 2008   |    comments
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The investigation found a large amount of personal property disappearing from passenger luggage. Nearly $57 million worth of personal property has turned up broken, missing, or stolen at airports nationwide. Much of that property disappears after entering secure areas of the airports. Hopkins passenger Cindy Doyle says that is upsetting. "It would make anyone angry," Doyle tells Channel 3 News. "They're supposed to protect us. Isn't that the reason for checking the bags?" For seven months Channel 3 News has been battling the Transportation Security Administration to obtain public records on passenger property. The electronic database finally obtained contains 3,000 pages of valuables passengers reported missing or damaged. Passengers are claiming all kinds of items have turned up missing from their checked and carry-on bags. Things like medicines, laptops, DVD players, and jewelery. "It's staggering," syas Pam Trinetti of Chagrin Falls, whose luggage was found trashed outside the terminal at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Eight hundreds dollars in valuables had been stolen. "And the woman I spoke to who took the report said that she thought it could have been an inside job," Trinetti says. Nationwide, passengers have filed 76,000 claims in just 3 years. Marti Hallstrom of Wadsworth is among those who have accused TSA of stealing personal property at Cleveland Hopkins. "It meant a lot to me," Hallstrom says of her special bracelet, which she inadvertantly left at a TSA checkpoint at Hopkins Airport. She also left her eyeglasses and a watch. Hallstrom says TSA told her not to worry, that the items were safely stored in a locked TSA office and that she could pick them up when she flew back to Hopkins later the same day. "The TSA officer confirmed that morning that he had all items and that he would lock them in the office," Hallstrom tells Channel 3 News. But when she arrived back to Cleveland, TSA only returned her glasses and watch. The multi-stone bracelet, a gift from her husband, was gone. She blames TSA. "Someone from inside that locked office took that bracelet. There's no doubt in my mind." Marti filed a claim and won. She's among nearly 600 Hopkins passengers who have filed claims in the last 3 years for personal property worth nearly $345,000. That's an average loss of nearly $600. "It seems overwhelming to me," says Hallstrom, "but I think people are vulnerable when they go through that checkpoint." Mike Young, the head of TSA locally, has a zero tolerance policy for theft. He admits it's tough to catch thieves red-handed, but says they know if they're caught, they'll be fired. Young has not disciplined anyone yet, but nationwide 269 TSA employees have been fired for theft. Of all claims nationwide, Los Angeles' LAX Airport handled the most, 4,300. Hopkins came in 37th among the nation's 350 airports.

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