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Sen. Schumer calls for 'random stings' to catch TSA Officers who steal

Reported by: Julie Tremmel

Videographer: P. Busa
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Updated: 10/05/2012 6:14 pm

Senator Charles Schumer says TSA Officers across the nation should be screening luggage, not stealing it.

But according to Schumer, that's exactly what's been happening at airports across America to hundreds of carry on items as they head through security checkpoints, and to checked baggage as it's inspected by trained officers.

When Senator Schumer found out that nearly 400 TSA Officers have been fired for theft since 2003 he was appalled.

So, he wrote a letter to a TSA Administrator calling for more 'random stings' to weed out the bad apples.

Senator Schumer's letter reads, in part, "…I write to raise two possible solutions you can immediately enact to address this problem. First, TSA's Office of Professional Responsibility should immediately announce that it will be performing random theft audits at all airports to test whether TSA agents are acting in a trustworthy manner to protect passenger property. This announcement will have two immediate positive effects: 1) it will help catch bad actors who take property during these audits; and 2) it will positively alter behavior even during times when audits are not occurring because TSA Agents will not know whether lost property has been placed into their custody unintentionally or intentionally as part of an audit."

In response, the TSA told ABC News it has a 'zero tolerance policy' towards theft, adding that 'ensuring the safety of travelers through a professional workforce is the agency's highest priority.'

But the Senator says that between 2003 and 2011, a total of 381 TSA Officers had to be terminated for theft, and just in the past year, over 200 'missing items' complaints have been filed.

In the letter, Schumer addressed the subject by saying, "Some of the most frequent concerns I hear from my constituents come from their experiences involving lost property at airports. Although the vast majority of TSA agents are hard-working and decent law-abiding citizens, there have been a number of recent news reports involving rampant theft of passenger property by TSA Agents."

On Thursday night at Albany International Airport some travelers told FOX23 News they already keep a close eye on their belongings at the security checkpoint area.

Angela Beddoe of Saratoga Springs said, "I worry about it sometimes, especially when you're putting jewelry through or whatever, so you always want to watch."

Other passengers admit they're more trusting.

Alyssa Rebensdorf was passing through Albany on her way back to Minneapolis.

She said, "I don't have reason, for the airports that I travel, to feel like I need to mistrust anybody who's handling my baggage through security."

But according to the recent statistics released by Senator Schumer, being overly cautious at the airport may be the right move.

In that letter dated October 4th, Senator Schumer urged a TSA Administrator to take corrective action.

He wrote, "TSA's Office of Professional Responsibility should also engage in random screenings of agents at the end of their shifts to ensure that they are not removing passenger property from the airport. This added layer of unpredictability will further reduce any incentive for TSA Agents to unlawfully take passenger property."

Some travelers said they encouraged the random sting operations to keep all TSA workers on notice.

Jim Salisbury of East Greenbush said, "Who knows what they're taking, at that time. And if you don't go right through your bag again, at that moment then, you know, you won't miss it until you get to your destination. And then you don't know where it went! So I think it's wrong. Definitely they should make sure those people (TSA Officers) are screened (monitored)."

While other travelers say they worry that crucial Federal dollars will be swept away by the increased regulation as fast as an iPad left on a busy street bench at a city park.

Marguerite Grabarek is a non-profit grant writer who was in New York on business from Michigan.

Grabarek said, "My knee jerk reaction is, where is the funding going to come from? Because there's many unfunded mandates, and we're looking at cuts in domestic violence prevention, substance abuse prevention which, in the long run, for our country, I think is a bigger issue."

Senator Schumer says the random stings would not only catch the thieves within the department, but would also likely act as a deterrent.

There's no word yet as to if or when the undercover operations would actually be implimented at airports across the United States.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of FOX23 News.

Edward8 - 10/5/2012 10:24 AM
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So, like, why don't background checks work? Oh, they don't weed out people who have never been caught. I think I would rather hire someone who has learned their lesson.
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