In our experience as frequent travelers, the most dangerous place is the TSA checkpoint. That’s where we’ve had watches, pills, and money stolen.
One common trick, which came to light during the trial of an LAX TSA Officer, is to shove items into their disposable gloves and toss it quickly. Then, in cooperation with the folks who empty the trash, they divide their booty.
It’s a tragedy this is so common-place. A piece in the local on-line travel section of today’s NY Times show one man’s experience, and the run-around he received afterwards. In an article is titled “When a Phone Disappears at Airport Security, No One’s in Charge.” Scott James reports:
Jerry Cain put his iPhone into the side pocket of his laptop bag and placed it in the X-ray machine at San Francisco International Airport in December, but moments later when he retrieved his bag and headed to his flight, he discovered the phone was gone.
He immediately returned to the security checkpoint and scoured the area, to no avail. Then he asked the gate’s security agents for help.
No phones had been turned in, they said, and sent him away.
Of course, we know where the phone is! It’s either in the trash can, to be emptied later, or in one of the numerous secret pockets that the TSA Officers have added to their jackets to steal iPhones and iPads.
In their usual cruel, sadistic style, these wannabe-cops mocked Mr. Cain:
He reacted by instructing a gate agent to confiscate my belongings and to X-ray and search them, to see if I possessed the missing phone.
Stunned, we left the checkpoint feeling frazzled and angry and decidedly poorer. The phone would cost $700 to replace.
And, as he went on to discover, nobody will take responsibility. It’s always someone else’s job. Of course, when you’re dealing with a criminal enterprise, you don’t expect cooperation. They’ll say anything get you to go away. All they’re thinking about is how quickly they can fence your phone. Often, they have them up on Craigslist while they’re still on duty.
The Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees airport security, referred questions to Covenant Aviation Security, a private subcontractor. San Francisco International is among 16 airports nationwide, out of 450, where security is privatized. Covenant said it could not comment without permission from the T.S.A.
The airport’s management also deflected questions, saying the San Francisco Police Department was in charge. Sandra Tong, the airport police bureau’s commander, declined several requests to be interviewed. Although the department has a force that responds to criminal matters, the airport is actually in San Mateo County, so cases are transferred to the county sheriff’s office for investigation.
Makes you wonder if some criminal enterprise pays cops a vig for looking the other way….
Our sympathies to Mr. Cain. I hope he’s learned his lesson. Here’s a summary of our tips:
- When going through the checkpoint, put your phone, your wallet, and your pills in a case and zip-tie the zipper shut. Put this case inside another bag. Take a few minutes to secure your items this way before going through the checkpoint.
- Never take your eyes off your bag. Decline the X-Ray and backscatter so you can have visual contact with your belongings at all times.
- At any sign of monkey-business, ask for a law enforcement officer immediately (while they may not help, as in this case, cops generally don’t like “prentend cops” and tend to side with a passenger in a dispute with a TSA Officer).