Keep your baggage from being claimed by crooks at the airport -

Baggage claiming criminals

At the airport, there are many opportunities for passengers to become victims of crime. Anywhere from the parking lot to pickpockets in and around the terminal on the curb. We've even seen passenger-on-passenger theft at the security check point, or in a terminal restroom.

Airport police say "opportunity theft" is the most common occurrence at the airport.

Sergeant Belinda Nettles says, "An opportunity theft is when someone within the traveling public sees an item that another passenger left behind, and as opposed to turning it in to the officials, they keep the item."

There are strategies you can follow to avoid becoming a victim.

"The best advice I can give every traveler is be aware of your valuables.  Know where they are at all times," says Nico Melded. "If you're coming to the airport, put them in one place.  Don't separate them, don't put them in an unobserved bin, don't put them in your checked bag. Keep them with you as much as possible.  And when they go through the X-ray belt, put them in your brief case, put them in your purse so they're all in one place. Too often we see people put all of their items in so many different bins, they don't even keep track of them when they go through.  They don't even remember what they put through the X-ray.  And it's left at the check point to be stolen, or to be lost and lost forever."

One thing that passengers can do is label their items. In the event they misplace them, then the officials will know how to contact them to return their items.

Nettles says you should be especially careful in high-traffic areas.

"The common areas where thefts may occur are in the open. They're in the seating areas. They're in the bathrooms. They're in the food court. And that's mainly because that's where the bulk of the people are, and that's where the opportunity is," she explains.

One of the riskiest things you can do at the airport is to fall asleep - which is not always easy to avoid if you're on a long trip.

"If you're feeling drowsy at the airport, try to stay awake. If you fall asleep, it opens up an opportunity for someone to take your item," says Nettles.

The bottom line: Even though our airports are well-protected by multiple layers of TSA and police personnel, don't assume you and your belongings are safe.

"The best thing to do is to keep an eye on your stuff and be smart with it," Nettle concludes.

And if you do see something, say something. Contact airport police or flag down a uniformed airport employee and they will take the appropriate action.

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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