Baggage theft on rise at IGI airport, doubled in last 2 yrs

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 31 2014, 16:42pm hrs
BaggageIn more than 80 per cent cases, the loaders and ground handling staff were found involved in thefts of check-in baggage. (Reuters)
Be careful the next time you fly in and out through the Indira Gandhi International Airport as the number of cases of baggage theft from the high-security zone has doubled in the last couple of years.

According to Delhi police, ground handling staff were found involved in 80 per cent of the baggage theft cases in the last three years.

A total 36 cases of baggage theft were reported at the IGI Airport Police Station in the year 2012, which rose to 56 in 2013.

The number has almost doubled in the first eight months of 2014 compared to cases in 2012 as 60 incidents of baggage theft have been reported till August 28 this year.

Police said 15 out of 36 cases in 2012 were solved and 22 people were arrested, while 10 cases were solved and 14 people arrested in 2013. Eleven cases have been solved and 14 people arrested in connection with baggage thefts this year.

"In more than 80 per cent cases, the loaders and ground handling staff were found involved in thefts of check-in baggage. We have also come across cases where co-passengers stole baggage, but such incidents are rare," said Deputy Commissioner of Police (IGI Airport) M I Haider.

In a recent case, Shahul Hamid Mohammed Iqbal landed at IGI Terminal-3 around 4 AM on August 17 after returning from the US via Frankfurt and Bahrain in a Gulf Air flight, and found that one of his four bags was missing.

A baggage handling manager approached him and told him that his bag could not be unloaded at the Bahrain airport. The manager then asked him to sign on the baggage missing report, ensuring that the bag will be delivered to him within 24 hours.

As Iqbal stepped out of the airport, he saw a fellow passenger trying to leave hiding his "missing" bag. He nabbed him and took him inside the baggage area, police said.

Iqbal has alleged that there is a gang of such thieves who travel to Middle East on low priced return ticket and comeback with two or three checked-in bags filled with rags. At the airport, they pick the same number of bags of their choice while its owners are stuck in immigration line.

Senior Gulf Air officials were not available for comment.

Police said they have not come across any organised gang involved in baggage theft in the recent past at the IGI airport.

"There was a Mumbai-based gang which was busted in 2008-09. There was also an international gang from Peru whose members were arrested from Karol Bagh in 2011. However, there has not been any such gang which has come to fore in the last couple of years," said DCP Haider.

According to police, those arrested in some thefts have mostly been ground handling staff, loaders and co-passengers. Once somebody files a report to police, a case is registered under Section 379 IPC (theft) and if someone is arrested with the robbed baggage, he or she is booked under sections 379 and 411 IPC (dishonestly receiving stolen property).

The maximum punishment under section 379 and 411 of IPC is three years of imprisonment.

Police mostly rely on CCTV footage in the investigation of such cases. Incidents of hand baggage theft are mostly caught on CCTV but such footage is not available in most cases of thefts of check-in baggage.