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Airport bag thefts spike, TRAX used as getaway vehicle

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Posted at 8:30 PM, Apr 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-27 00:36:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The opening of Utah Transit Authority's Airport TRAX line is already proving popular -- with travelers and thieves.

The newly opened line is seeing a surge in riders to Salt Lake City International Airport. But airport officials told FOX 13 on Friday they are also seeing a spike in luggage thefts from baggage carousels and TRAX is being used as a getaway vehicle.

"They come out multiple times," said airport spokeswoman Barbara Gann. "Time it well with the train, get off the train, take something from the bag carousel and get back on. That seems to be the pattern."

By the time someone reports their luggage stolen, Gann said, the thief is long gone.

Within the last week, Salt Lake City Airport Police arrested two men accused of stealing numerous bags. They were both booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of theft. Gann said both men were captured on surveillance camera multiple times.

"Hopefully we've got this stopped for the time being," she said. "If you're doing this, know that you'll get caught. There's various levels of security involved. If you're a passenger, just be aware and take precautions."

Gann urged passengers to claim bags quickly, so they don't linger on the carousels. She also urged passengers not to pack valuables like medications or jewelry in checked bags, instead putting them in carry-on luggage.

UTA said it would also ask its officers to be more aware along the Airport TRAX line.

"They are being more vigilant. They're watching people get on and off the train," said UTA spokesman Remi Baron. "If somebody looks suspicious, they have a bag and they're acting suspiciously, they'll be questioned."

Salt Lake City International Airport officials said they were not surprised by the spike in thefts, noting that other airports with light rail lines reported similar problems after they began service.

Outside the Airport TRAX station, Dave Gailey was stopped as he lugged two bags behind him. He fished out his ID and showed his baggage claim ticket to the police officer. He told FOX 13 he was glad for the increased security.

"It's too simple for anybody to come in and grab a bag off the line and just walk out with it. If you look like you know what you're doing, you can just grab a bag and walk away," Gailey said. "The fact that they do have security to protect kind of protect our bags, it's absolutely a good thing."