If you are among the millions of Americans who are traveling over the holidays, I wish you and your family a safe journey. Yet as a career prosecutor, let me suggest some ways in which you can ensure safe passage for you and your family, as well as your belongings.
As disheartening as it is, both good and bad people will be traveling this season . . . and for drastically different reasons.
The Distraction of the Season
We live in a day and age where travel requires both disaster preparedness and distraction preparedness. The common denominator is the need to remain alert and attentive to your surroundings.
This is particularly true when traveling over the holidays due to the large crowds of people trying to reach their destinations on time, with schedules frequently impacted by winter weather delays. These travelers share common goals that result in a common vulnerability — distraction.
Criminals Exploit Divided Attention
If you are at a public transportation center looking at train, bus, or flight information up on a screen, you are not looking at your bags. You are probably holding young children by the hand, but not every piece of your luggage. Criminals know this; that is why they are there. Accordingly, public transportation hubs are hotbeds for theft.
And unlike trusting, sometimes rookie travelers, seasoned thieves are professionals. They have done this before, often many times. While you are studying flight schedules or menu selections at the food court, thieves are studying you and your belongings.
In fact, some criminals travel for the specific purpose of stealing your property. Many thefts occur in the air. Think about it — on a long flight where fellow passengers are sleeping or watching television, when you get up to use the lavatory, your property is fair game whether it is under the seat or in an overhead bin.
Although most thefts happen in coach, which is less expensive, more crowded, and affords a larger victim pool, thieves are also found in first class, where they might find more valuable loot. A couple in Emirates first class reportedly had thousands of dollars stolen from one of their bags during a flight from Paris to Dubai. The cash was never recovered.
The author of an article detailing the reality of in-flight theft, even in first class, notes that one source describes how suspected thieves might be identified by taking note of travelers who book flights with a quick turnaround, a schedule which might indicate the sole purpose of travel is in-flight theft.
Holiday Travel Preparedness
There are proactive steps you can take as well. As you prepare to enter the holiday rush, here are some travel tips to safeguard your precious cargo:
- Keep your essentials with you at all times. This includes medication, inhalers, glasses, hearing aids, devices, and chargers. Avoiding stashing essentials in a checked bag, which could be stolen or diverted to the wrong airport.
- Pre-program emergency numbers into your devices (which should be fully charged) so you can report a theft quickly to facilitate early apprehension if necessary. Pre-programmed numbers should include police, fire, your airline or other transportation company, and the numbers of the relatives or friends who are planning to pick you up at your destination city incase you need to notify them of a delay.
- Put identifying information tags on every one of your bags. It is less alluring for a thief to make off with a bag that is clearly identified as belonging to someone else. This also prevents innocent bag swapping that occurs by mistake.
- Lock your bags. A criminal would have to make off with the entire thing to get inside— which would be way too conspicuous.
- Manage your image. An airport is not a black-tie gala. If you dress to impress by flashing your best jewels and clothes, you may be impressing criminals who will spot you as an attractive target from across the terminal. Instead, dress modestly for both comfort and safety.
As you prepare to travel this season, taking steps to remain alert and attentive will facilitate the safe passage of you, your family, and your belonging. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours.
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