Senator Charles E. Schumer yesterday called on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to immediately address the recent reports of their agents stealing property from luggage and security checkpoints at airports all over the country. Some of these stolen items include iPads, cameras, laptops and video game consoles.
Schumer wrote to TSA Administrator John Pistole, and asked him to implement random and frequent audits at checkpoints to immediately address this problem. Schumer suggested the audits could be conducted by undercover agents acting as travelers, and include property with embedded location tracking devices. Schumer emphasized that the vast majority of agents were hardworking, honest individuals. He said random audits would deter those who were not honest from engaging in illegal behavior, and help catch those who steal personal property.
Between May 1, 2003 and December 2011, a total of 381 Transportation Security Officers have been terminated for theft. And according to the FAA, over 200 complaints of missing items have been filed in the past 12 months.
“Traveling these days is stressful enough without having to worry about being robbed by those who are paid to keep us safe,” said Schumer. “I know and interact with TSA agents on a regular basis, and I know that the vast majority are honest, dedicated, and hard working. These random and undercover audits would help deter those who want to steal, and prevent them from sullying the good name of their colleagues.”
Schumer pointed to recent reports of TSA agents stealing the personal property of airline passengers. Some passengers have reported stolen iPads, Nintendo Wii systems and cameras. In a recent ABC investigative report, a iPad was tracked to a TSA agent’s home in Orlando, Florida.
To address this problem, Schumer is proposing random theft audits at airports across the country to test whether TSA agents are acting in a trustworthy manner to protect passenger property. The audits will involve lost property that has been placed in TSA’s custody intentionally. TSA’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigates allegations of misconduct of employees. Schumer made the case that the Office of Professional Responsibility should begin performing random theft audits because they will help catch bad actors who take property during the audits and will positively alter behavior even during times when audits are not occurring.
A copy of Schumer’s letter can be found below:
October 4, 2012
Hon. John Pistole
Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
601 South 12th Street
Arlington, Virginia 20598-6002
Dear Administrator Pistole:
I am writing to express my concern regarding theft of passenger property by agents of the Transportation Security Administration. 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.
It is in this regard that 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.
Second, 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.
Your consideration on this important issue is appreciated. We look forward to working with you to address the security of our flights in a manner that best protects the property of our flying public.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator