Why thieves prefer black bags when stealing luggage at airports

Why Thieves Prefer Black Bags

Why thieves prefer black bags.

Almost 1,000 bags found at home of thieves. Almost all black.

Why thieves prefer black bags.

Luggage stolen from Phoenix airport. Almost all black.

Why thieves prefer black bags.

Stolen luggage is gathered and moved from home of thieves. Almost all black.

Yeah, this story’s everywhere, about the Phoenix couple who made a living stealing luggage off the airport carousel. Police found almost a thousand suitcases in their house.

Not a single report has pointed out that the stolen luggage is almost all black. I described this strategy in a post more than a year ago, and in my book way before that. This is an M.O. This is something to notice and learn from.

Thieves prefer to steal black luggage because so much of it looks alike. If the thief is caught red-handed by the bag’s owner, he only has to say sorry, it looks just like mine. And he’s out of there. Scot-free.

Look at the photos on the right. This is just a fraction of the bag booty as it was gathered on the thieves’ property. The bags we see are almost all black.

The bag-boosters are not rocket surgeons. Not a lot of brain power goes into concocting a brilliant strategy. These two, Keith and Stacy King, traipsed into the baggage area straight from the parking lot. They might not have been caught had they walked up a level, then come down the escalators as if from the gates.

why thieves prefer black bags. Which is yours?

Which is yours?

They’re not the first to steal baggage off the conveyor belts. Earlier this year, a man was arrested at Dallas Fort Worth airport. He admitted taking over 400 bags, and police linked him to at least 600. He also “worked” at airports in Houston and Tulsa, allegedly stealing a number of suitcases every day. And long before that, a Las Vegas man regularly supplied a second-hand clothing store with the stuff from bags stolen off McCarran’s baggage belt. [Linked to above.]

After 9/11, airports moved security staff from arrivals to departures. With no bag tag checkers, anyone can saunter out with anything. We passengers have minimal control. We can get to the carousel promptly, but what happens when bags get lost or delayed, or the bags make it but we are late? You’ve seen the jumbles of suitcases massed outside baggage service offices in arrivals halls. Do they look protected? At the most, they’re penned in by a crowd-control ribbon. No one will take responsibility. Not the airlines. Not the airports. Not TSA. Not police.

So here’s the obvious lesson. Buy pink luggage. Or green, or silver. If you have black, decorate it.
© Copyright 2008-2013 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

22 Comments

  • Rick says:

    Bag tag checkers are needed. Sue the airlines and the airports for being lame. If they’re already reimbursing then a new scam’s around the corner. The Kings are dumb for keeping that luggage around. Do what Bambi says – she’s a smart cookie. Buy radioactive bags that glow in the dark.

  • Bambi says:

    Most people missing suitcases must assume that the airlines lost their luggage. The airlines then pay out their pittance for bags that were actually stolen by outside thieves. Maybe the airlines should sue the airports, Rick!

  • Rick says:

    I fell asleep at one of those carousels once. It wasn’t moving and the gf had wandered off elsewhere and I was supposed to wait for the luggage. I was soooooo tired so I just stretched out on the motionless carousel. I woke up when it started getting luggage and started moving. No one tried to steal me. I think I was attractive enough but I did have a dark suit on as I remember. ;)

  • Bambi says:

    Hah! The dark suit made you attractive to thieves. It must have been your hair ribbons and green socks that scared them away.

  • Louis says:

    It’s actually “scot free”

  • Drew Thaler says:

    I’m not so sure this is correct.

    Perhaps the prevalence of black bags is just related to the source material — the percentage of ALL bags which are black.

    For example, imagine a different couple who in fact stole *entirely* at random, literally using a random number generator to make their choice. But of course they would necessarily be stealing from the set of bags available at airports today, which are mostly black.

    What would the set of bags they stole look like? And how would the end result be different from what these guys stole?

  • Bambi says:

    Thanks, Louis, I’ve made the correction. Appreciate that!

    Drew. I haven’t interrogated any airport luggage thieves myself, but my cop friends have. The thieves actually say they prefer black luggage for the reason I outlined. However, if an opportunity presents itself, I’m sure a green bag wouldn’t be smirked at. Also, as a very frequent traveler, I do see greater variety in luggage lately. Today I saw a bold zebra-striped shiny plastic suitcase.

  • I agree with the colored bag theory but I have taken to an old school trick of taping my name and destination boldly and firmly over the side of my China side walk sale special black market bag. I also stand by the shute and can see my bag as it comes out. Now couple that with a piece of rope around it and my bright red bandanna and they think I am from Bohunk Canada where no one has anything to steal. Have traveled world wide and never lost a bag yet… touch plastic. By the way I have several bags of rewrapped laxative chocolates inside just to give me a bit of satisfaction if they do go missing. I have grabbed my bag out of the hand of an “oooh I grabbed the wrong bag” guy just because I stood at the right spot and kept my eyes open.

  • Adam Bates says:

    It is an airline’s responsibility to ensure checked bags are returned to their owners – MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33833245/ns/travel-tips/.

    These days it is unwise to pack anything valuable or irreplaceable into checked luggage. There is a high probability somebody will go through your luggage before it gets to the carousel.

  • Jennifer says:

    I believe the ‘black bag’ theory is true for handbags as well, and not only in airports but, also major train stations and, presumably, other large public places are high risk…

    After having my ‘plain black’ handbag ripped away from me while trying to board a train in the Brussels-Midi station, I decided ‘no more black or neutral handbags for me, ever!”
    …it was on a Friday evening, late January (when people tend to dress in darker clothing), hundreds of people with dark handbags and brief cases boarding and de-boarding international trains – this station is within a (few) mile(s), in some cases a few hundred yards, of most major embassies (incl.USA) , the UN HQ, etc….

  • Rick says:

    Bambi: you saw a bold zebra-striped shiny plastic suitcase? You did? But why did you take it? That was mine!

    OK I’m just marking time until Bambi gets to a hotspot so we have more cool stuff to read again. xox

  • I love bag tags, however, sometimes it is just not enough to deter criminals. As for having bright color bags, the last I checked, it is hard to find it. Ok, maybe there are, however, I doubt many men would consider a pink luaggage. Any guys out there like to tell me if they really would consider a pink bag?

  • Anik Bansal says:

    Sir/Madam,

    I am a Nokia distributor at Sunam distt. Sangrur Punjab(India) and Come on trip to Thailand last week (dt 05/03/2010) with group of 120 persons sponsored by NOKIA.

    When we all were checking out the hotel dt 08/03/2010, we had put in my luggage in the Bus which was expected to take us to the airpot. To my utmost surprise I could not get my luggage at the airport. all the baggages were there .it is black in colour suitcase (suitcase company is VIP) with my name slip (ANIK BANSAL of SUNAM INDIA) in the suit case also my airticket of thai aitways dt 08/03/010 time 19:50.I also compliant in lost & found.

    So kindly do look into the matter and do the needful at the earliest as i have been put to a loss of more than 1 lac (indian RS) .
    Regards,
    Anik bansal
    Bansal Automobiles
    Patiala Road
    Sunam punjab(india)
    919814720080

  • Bill C. says:

    I know this is an old thread, but I just discovered this website today…. very addictive reading! :)

    When I fly, I always have a 10-inch silver duct tape around the handle of my suitcase. It says “DIRTY LAUNDRY” and in the last 10 years, I haven’t had my suitcase stolen yet. In fact, foreign customs also seem very reluctant to inspect my bag. :)

  • black bag 1X1.5 feet (m resort casino bag) with all documents medication , us passport and many documents lost in security check point (D) in las Vegas airport Jan 4 2011 at 3 pm before heading to Portland Oregon by Alaska air lines flight 623 , i appreciated your help

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