A baggage worker at Phoenix Sky Harbor was arrested after he allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of items from passengers’ baggage. According to the Associated Press (AP), “Officers saw Michael Hegstad, 23, take two boxes from a luggage conveyor belt and take out their contents on Aug. 26. He was taken into custody and admitted to repeatedly removing personal belongings from baggage, police Sgt. Steve Martos said Thursday.”
Officers have retrieved most of what was stolen, but say it will take quite a while to reunite the items with their owners. “There could very well be hundreds of victims from across the country and across the globe,” Martos told the AP.
Hegstad was not employed by Sky Harbor, but was working for a third-party contractor and passed a background check before being hired.
Interestingly, this incident comes less than a year after another baggage theft arrest at Sky Harbor. In that arrest, a couple was found to have stolen upwards of 1,000 bags from the airport simply by walking in, grabbing a bag, and walking out. The two were not employed at the airport. The woman in that case was recently sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison after pleading guilty. The man also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced October 1.
Naturally, you may be wondering what’s up at Sky Harbor. After all, two major bag theft operations in less than two years seems a bit alarming. Not so! The AP writes that airport spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher said airport security sees no reason to change anything, and will stick with its current method of catching people “if they dare to do something like this here.”
Sgt. Martos echoed this mindset, telling the AP, “We don’t feel there’s necessarily a concern. This is a contracted employee who passed a background check. Now he’s detained and arrested, so it’s not something that necessarily happens on a daily basis.”
There’s no reason not to take these people at their word, but methinks those words could be chosen more wisely. Maybe try, “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Because post-arrest bravado does little to relieve the victims’ frustration or reassure future travelers that Sky Harbor isn’t a thieves’ playground. Just sayin’.