Report: More Than 200 Items A Day Stolen From Passengers At JFK Airport

JFK International in NYC isn’t just one of the busier airports in the country, it’s also reportedly the place in the Big Apple for passengers to have stuff stolen out of their bags.

CBS NY reports that more than 200 such thefts occur every day at the airport, with much of it apparently happening after travelers hand off their bags to airline and airport personnel.

“The belly of the airplane has become like a flea market for airport employees. They go in there and go through all the luggage unencumbered, unchecked,” one lawyer tells CBS.

“What we’re seeing out there is that really anything that isn’t nailed down is being stolen and for that matter I would caution, some day, if there weren’t tires missing from an aircraft,” says a former NYPD detective.

The lawyer alleges that the thieves are often able to get away with the crimes because stolen bags will just be written off as lost luggage by the airlines.

“The airlines don’t want to report these thefts because it’s bad for business,” he says. “Fares go up clearly because of this. It’s a cost of doing business. They pay out and they hide the fact that these items are stolen.”

The Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, which operates JFK, tells CBS that it’s going to install more cameras around the airport.

Exclusive: The Stunning JFK Airport Baggage Scandal; 200 Thefts Per Day [CBS NY]


Edit Your Comment

  1. consumed says:

    This is why I never check bags when traveling – if I can’t fit my belongings in an overhead bin or below the seat in front of me then I’ve packed too many things. I take the bare minimum amount of stuff – anything else either goes FedEx or UPS to its destination.

    • eturowski says:

      + infinity. Ever since the TSA prohibited real locks on checked luggage, I refuse to check anything other than dirty clothes on the way home. This is the real reason I carry on, not baggage fees.

      • Sian says:

        If you travel with a ‘firearm’ (even a flaregun or starter pistol will do for the squeamish) you can make your luggage as tamper-proof as humanly possible, with armored hinged and puck locks and the works. Sadly you can’t always do this if traveling international.

    • sjb says:

      Do not depend on the overhead storage being available, the under seat is about the only sure thing. Going through security you need to have a partner that is on the other side to watch the bags as they come out. The best way to travel is to only take things that if “lost”, are replaceable. Assume the worst will happen and plan for it.

      The bags that we us are these ugly orange vinyl/canvas bags that have no locks and no capability of hiding anything within them. The thought here is that with so much nicer targets going through the handling station, their time will be better spent on someone else s stuff.

    • thomwithanh says:

      Knock on wood I’ve never had anything stolen, even when I get the TSA “white card” in my bag…

    • dorianh49 says:

      A smaller version of your stuff?

    • spamtasticus says:

      Here is what you do and if you don’t believe me then do your own research or even ask the next time you are at the airline counter.

      Step 1. Buy military grade hard cases that do not have zippers:

      Step 2. Buy a gun for each of your cases. Any gun will do even a starter pistol or even a marine flare gun. Used if you want to save money. I have seen them for $10.

      Step 3. Make sure you have no ammo of any kind on your or in your gun or bag

      Step 4. Walk up to the ticket counter and inform them that you will be packing your guns in your bags. They will ask you if they are loaded or if you have any ammo and answer that you do not. They will ask you to put the guns in the bags which you will do, one per bag. If they tell you that you could put all the guns in one of the cases just smile at them and thank them for their advice but no thank you.

      Step 5. Fill out the short little form for each case.

      Step 6. Make sure they do not mark your cases on the outside in any way that says there are guns inside. This is against federal law for them to do so.
      “No common or contract carrier shall require or cause any label, tag, or other written notice to be placed on the outside of any package, luggage, or other container that such package, luggage, or other container contains a firearm.”

      Step 7. Place the nastiest beefiest military grade lock you can afford on your bags. Since the bags contain guns the requirement for those wimpy TSA locks that any baggage handler (Otherwise known as TSA officers without fake badges) can open with a paper clip.

      Now nobody can legally open your case without you present. Even the TSA can’t. If they want to see what is in your bags they have to X-ray it but they can’t get their grubby little hands on your laptops and other valuables so they can steal them.


      PS. I’m very very serious about this. None of this is fake and all info about this is available to anyone that can spell Google. Just make sure that the gun in your bag is not illegal where you are going. You never know, you just might learn a thing or two about laws and government and keep your valuables secure at the same time.

  2. Coffee says:

    The only time I’ve ever had an item stolen was flying back to the U.S. from Switzerland, via JFK. While I was there, I purchased a sweet Swiss Army hunting knife (the internet wasn’t a thing yet, so such a novelty wasn’t very common). Checked it through, went to pick up our baggage in between flights (our destination was California), and the knife was gone. I’ve flown a lot in my life, but have only passed through New York twice.

  3. chucklesjh says:

    Why the hell would you check a bag with $160K worth of stuff? That’s just plain stupid!

    • fsnuffer says:

      Why they hell shouldn’t I be able to? The fact the the Port Authority and the airlines cannot control their thieving employees is a disgrace.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah, checking a bag with 1$160k worth of stuff in it just that doesn’t pass the smell test to me.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      I can’t help but wonder if it was checked because all of the overhead bins were full and whomever was carrying it didn’t stand up for their goods or believed that it would be safe because they were past all the screening and such where one would think most of the theft happens.

      Not a justification, just an observation. I agree that if this is true, whomever allowed the $150k bag out of their sight is brainless.

    • Shadowman615 says:

      I can get my total luggage value down to about 90K as long as I leave belt-buckles and neckties at home.

  4. sir_eccles says:

    But you feel safer, right?

  5. crispyduck13 says:

    What an awesome scam!

    1. Increase checked bag fees to $30-$50.
    2. Hire minimum wage employees to do all the heavy lifting.
    3. Let them steal stuff to make up for their shitty pay.
    4. Pay customers off for the “lost” belongings, but only if they provide adequate proof.
    5. Raise rates further to offset pay offs.
    6. Profit!!!

    • Akuma Matata says:

      that’s far too many steps… profit should be step 4

      1. Increase check bag fees
      2. Let airport employees steal from bags
      3. Increase check bag fees
      4. Profit!!

  6. framitz says:

    I’ve never had a problem with missing items, but I don’t put anything of value in my checked luggage either.

  7. msbask says:

    Yet, Chuck Shumer is too busy worrying about people having to provide their Facebook passwords to prospective employers that THIS is not a priority?!

    • crispyduck13 says:

      I see what you’re saying but there are literally millions of Americans out there looking for jobs right now, so that issue does potentially impact a huge amount of people.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Nice false equivalency there. Shouldn’t he be spending all his time on the GI who killed 16 in Afghanistan?

    • mearow says:

      How about requiring baggage handlers & TSA employees to supply their eBay & craigslist password?

  8. Wheels17 says:

    And if they can take things out of baggage at a rate of 200 a day, what prevents them from putting something in the luggage…. More TSA security theater, and they won’t even let Bruce Schneier testify at the congressional hearings

    • DemosCat says:

      That was exactly my thought. If you can remove items with impunity, then you can certainly add items too, such as plastic explosives and an altimeter-activated detonator.

  9. lain1k says:

    Carriers can’t change anymore for checked bags so they’ve resorted to stealing from said bags.

  10. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    No comment from the union.

    They can put up all the cameras they want, it doesn’t matter unless there is also the manpower to either monitor them or to use them to investigate every theft.

    Obviously employees aren’t being checked on the way out of the airport, and there are no standards as to what employees can bring with them to work (because they could steal jewelry, for example, then just wear it home and claim it was theirs to begin with).

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Well they found the manpower for some shmuck to sit in a room and monitor all those body scans. I’m sure they can scrounge someone up for this.

    • ninabi says:

      Why not have the monitors in the airport terminals? We can all watch them while we wait for our planes. Make sure employees wear easy-to-read numbers on their clothing.

  11. Kuri says:

    At times I lament that I don’t get to travel more, then I read a story like this and am partly glad I barely get to see more of the world.

  12. Such an Interesting Monster says:

    Not to try and diminish this, because any theft is unacceptable, but once you take into account how many thousands upon thousands of people pass thru JFK on any given day, and how many tens of thousands of bags are processed, 200 is a teeny tiny number.

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      Agreed. But if everyone who came into contact with luggage was checked at the end of their shift, that number would be much lower. I would hope.

    • Gorbachev says:

      It’s 73,000 stolen items per year.

      Not so little.

      If you had 200 thefts in a Manhattan neighborhood every day, the residents would scream bloody murder, and the police precinct captain would have some serious explaining to do.

      • RandomHookup says:

        If that neighborhood had about 66k residents (the average number of passengers at Laguardia per day), then it might not be noticeable.

  13. ILoveBacon says:

    So, after getting manhandled and shoved through a cancer machine, you’re then robbed and lied to about it by airport personnel. Wonderful!

  14. ancientone567 says:

    So they can’t just place a guard in the belly of the plane while they are loading in stuff?

  15. evilpete says:

    … “going to install more cameras around the airport.” …

    Yea right that will help…

    How about security check points, I am sure even TSA can notice a baggage handler going home with a new laptop every other day….

    • Coleoptera Girl says:

      The TSA screener would just smile and giggle because he’s taking home 3 iPods and an iPad every day, not a measly 1 laptop every other day!

  16. AllanG54 says:

    What idiot packs $160,000 worth of jewelry in a suitcase. And for that matter, why did she need to travel with so much stuff to begin with.

  17. Bog says:

    Let’s start with a 10 year mandatory minimum if someone is caught burglarizing baggage.

  18. Bog says:

    I wonder how much the theft is food items, I think I’ll have to start packing a box of poisoned cookies too.

  19. Pete the Geek says:

    So how many bombs could they plant?

  20. Aliciaz777 says:

    I’ve never, and will never, check my bags while flying. If I can’t fit everything in my carry-on then I just don’t bring it. I remember while boarding once, we were forced to check our bags (I guess that happens sometimes) and we weren’t given any notice of it. We were literally boarding and a FA said “everyone has to check their bags” so I stopped right there and removed my camera, Nintendo DS and iPhone so I could put them in my handbag because I knew if I left them in there, they’d be gone when I got home.

    It’s really sad that we have to trust these people with our lives when we fly yet they can’t even be trusted with our belongings.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Exactly. I have a backpack that goes into the cabin with me, without fail. It’s small enough to fit under the seat if the bin is full. That is where my computer, camera, wallet, etc. goes and no one takes that away from me.

      The only things in my carry-on are clothes, shoes and my little plastic bag of liquids. I do put jewelry in there sometimes. It’s not good stuff but some does have sentimental value, and if I have to gate check, I take it out first.

  21. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    And these same employees who are stealing from luggage would be the first ones to scream bloody murder if their cars or lockers were broken into during working hours, and their personal items taken.

    There is no excuse for taking items from luggage. None whatsoever. And there should be higher penalties involved for those who do steal from the very passengers who are forced to use their services.

  22. nopirates says:

    i fly one or two round trips a week

    once, i had to give up my rollaboard plainside when getting into a small RJ at PHL. when i got it back after landing, i noticed that the zippers were slightly open and not closed at the top of the bag where i usually place them. i opened it in the terminal and it had been totally rifled-through. my toiletries bag was emptied and all of the items just dumped on to my clothes.

    so, in between handing it to the guy RIGHT NEXT TO THE PLANE in PHL and getting it back when i landed, someone tried to rob me. nothing was missing because i NEVER leave ANYTHING of value in my bags. the most valuable thing in the bag was probably my electric razor. this had to have happened IN THE PLANE in PHL

    i tried to get us airways to give a damn and it was useless. they basically told me to file a police report and get back to them. since nothing was actually missing, what was i gonna do???

    so yeah, it’s obvious that this happens all of the time

  23. PortlandBeavers says:

    They won’t find anything but clothing and toiletries in mine.

    I’m more concerned about employees who have no one watching them putting something on the plane rather than taking it off. It’s kind of funny that the TSA agents darn near rape you at the gate, and these people don’t have anyone watching them. The terrorists do their homework. They know where the holes in the system are. The whole gate security routine is a farce.