LOS ANGELES – A $15,000 camera, Gucci bags, name-brand clothing, electronics and jewelry are among the thousands of dollars in valuables stolen by baggage handlers at Los Angeles International Airport, police said Thursday.
Police served more than two dozen search warrants and made six arrests Wednesday night after a monthslong investigation in what was the largest baggage-theft operation in the airport’s history, Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Raymond Maltez said.
The joint operation with LAPD and airport police came in response to a string of theft reports from planes, terminals and runways. Police noticed lost and theft reports occurring at the airport more frequently when certain crews handled luggage.
Those arrested were primarily employees or ex-employees of companies contracted to handle luggage and did not work directly for the airport, airport police Assistant Chief Michael Hyams said.
Police said that while some thieves worked together, most acted on their own, seizing opportunities to pocket items from luggage in transit.
Maltez said there was a general culture of acceptance of theft among the baggage handlers.
“They all knew about each other, although they weren’t working in concert,” Maltez said.
The thieves targeted bags that were traveling longer distances or had multiple transfers. Long-haul passengers, especially, often don’t see their bags for many hours and through multiple airports if they’re transferring.
“What happens is if they steal it here at LAX, by the time you get home you don’t know where these things were stolen,” Maltez said. “They know who to target.”