Sky Harbor to Review Baggage-Handling Procedures After More Than 1,000 Bags Were Stolen by Two People

There are few things in the world more maddening than having your luggage lost when traveling and even fewer things more cathartic than going berserk on the airline representative when he or she tells you it may never be found.

Phoenix police yesterday managed to track down more than 1,000 pieces of lost luggage and it turns out, they weren't lost because of airline incompetence -- entirely, anyway.

The luggage the police found didn't accidentally find it's way onto an airplane headed for Guam, like a lot of lost luggage. Police say it was systematically stolen over several months from the airport's baggage claim by Keith and Stacy King, and airport officials plan to review baggage procedures to try to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

"We're looking at our options -- we're working with police, and looking at procedures that other airports are doing to prevent luggage theft," Sky Harbor spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez tells New Times.

Rodriguez says a procedure that was used in the past, where passengers had to match their tickets to their bags upon leaving the airport, was abandoned shortly after 9/11 because it was too expensive to operate.

The matching system, according to Rodriguez, was run at the expense of the airlines, which collaboratively paid for operations. After 9/11, airlines were forced to divert money from protecting baggage to fund counter-terrorism measures.

Rodriguez says the matching system is definitely an option but not necessarily the solution.

"Most other airports aren't using a matching system," she says. "We're not ruling it out, but there are a lot of measures that we take that people don't see that have worked in the past."

Oh, in the past -- when two people managed to steal more than 1,000 pieces of luggage from a single airport?

Rodriguez says there are police officers and camera systems that are constantly monitoring the baggage-claim areas at the airport.

Those measures were actually how the two were caught -- eventually.

Police arrested Keith King about three weeks ago after watching him take luggage from the baggage claim area. He was arrested and issued a misdemeanor citation for theft. A few days later, he was at it again. Surveillance video showed King in a parking garage before he went into the airport to steal more bags.

Police then got a search warrant for King's house near
175th and Northern avenues, where they hit the mother load.

They found the more than 1,000 pieces of luggage stacked from floor to ceiling of the Kings' house. Police say a lot of the bags were open and had stuff missing that they think was sold at garage sales.

After finding the stash, cops threw the cuffs on the Kings, and th
ey were booked on suspicion of theft and possession of stolen property.

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James King
Contact: James King