Theft at POP - Air Transat Flight

La Profe_1

Moderator: Daily Headline News, Travel & Tourism
Oct 15, 2003
2,187
744
113
This is a not something that can be found in the newspapers, but it happened perhaps five years ago.

I coordinated the donation of some medical items with a tourist from the Toronto area. Picked them up from her at her hotel and made certain that they got to a medical outreach that could use them.

Because of making the arrangements, the tourist had my email address. After her return to Toronto, I got a frantic email from her asking me to check at the airport to see if her digital camera had been turned it - she lost it. I did call Swissport (the people who actually do the check-ins and baggage handling) but no one knew a thing about it. I thought to myself that it was gone for good.

Two weeks later, I got another email. Someone had found it and turned it in in the TORONTO airport!!

Evidently the person who helped the camera take an unauthorized trip was Canadian and not Dominican. How else could it have made it to Pearson and been dropped/abandoned there?
 

dcblue

New member
Jul 21, 2008
41
1
0
Do not assume a carry-on bag is safe from damage. I was booked on a too close connection through Continental. They put me on a smaller plane and forced me to gate check my carryon bag. It was smaller than the average carryon and designed to hold camera equipment and a laptop with lots of extra padding. The laptop was severely damaged (frame completely dented - maybe do to something very heavy being thrown on top of it) and Continental did not reimburse me for it. Luckily my insurance company did.
 

Fiesta Mama

Bronze
Jan 28, 2004
772
60
0
Why is it that those targeted always seem to be landing at Toronto? [/URL]

A few comments on this post and the thread in general:

1. Honestly, it`s probably a coincidence BUT being from Toronto, I can attest that Torontonians are proactive and we stick up for ourselves. Most are internet savvy and will post something immediately if wronged because that`s what we do here if, for example, you have a bad restaurant experience, etc. Also, I don`t know the stats but I am sure that a good percentage of tourists landing in POP are from Toronto or route through Toronto (Canada`s busiest and largest airport) from other Canadian cities so it stands to reason that the percentage may be higher than other destinations.

2. I cannot fathom in this day and age why ANYONE would be naive enough to think they can check valuables. Apart from the poster that mentioned having to check their carry-on bag on one occasion, most travellers (seasoned or first timers) know enough NOT to put things like cameras, phones, jewellery, etc. in your checked baggage.

3. A few tips. Pack things like pairs of shoes in separate suitcases (if travelling with more than one) or put them on opposite side of suitcase so thieves cannot find a pair. Stuff perfume in the toes of shoes, followed by a dirty sock, for example. I used to put perfume in my purse or carry-on but with the new restrictions on carrying liquids, this is not possible.

4. If bringing new merchandise, always take it out of the original packaging or take off sales tickets, and DO NOT wrap gifts so that would be thieves will not know it`s brand new merchandise.

5. Don`t mark your experience up to the Dominican Republic being a bad place to travel to that is full of thieves. This type of things happens all over the world. Workers at airports the world over are fired every year for things like theft, being involved in drug or immigration delinquency, etc.

6. When staying at a hotel, always lock upyour valuables in the room safe - passport, jewellery (although I would not recommend even bringing anything that needs to be locked up), etc. If anything is stolen from your room, report it immediately to the hotel management and stay calm and don't put down the country when making your complaint. Instead, mention how you love the country and other from your home country would be very sorry to hear about how you were treated at "xyz" hotel, etc. and they will try to bend over backwards to help you because they depend on tourism and the majority of people really would bend over backwards to help you.

7. The language factor - for some reason, I find more people are critical of a country they visit and have a negative experience when they don't speak the language. I guess there is some belief that people must be screwing you if you don't understand what they are saying.

Bottom line - people, read up on the internet how to pack as a smart traveller and don't put things in your luggage that you are not willing to part with. I am not saying that stealing is right and I certainly would be upset myself BUT imagine if your suitcase was lost and you lost everything! You have to be prepared to lose the stuff in your suitcase if the worst case scenario happens so don't pack expensive/valuables.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AlterEgo

jrhartley

Gold
Sep 10, 2008
8,190
576
0
63
I am slightly worried about the drugs thing mentioned by bushbaby, in that if persons unknown are rifling through bags they could also be depositing things to be taken through to another country or evene bombs - since they have already passed through security checks
 
  • Like
Reactions: AlterEgo

donP

Newbie
Dec 14, 2008
6,942
178
0
Sigue so?ando

Instead, mention how you love the country and other from your home country would be very sorry to hear about how you were treated at "xyz" hotel, etc. and they will try to bend over backwards to help you because they depend on tourism and the majority of people really would bend over backwards to help you.

Now, would that not make even the hardiest thief weep...? :cheeky:
And of course, weighing the digital camera in one hand and thinking about the future of tourism he will certainly.... :tired:

donP
 

Fiesta Mama

Bronze
Jan 28, 2004
772
60
0
Now, would that not make even the hardiest thief weep...? :cheeky:
And of course, weighing the digital camera in one hand and thinking about the future of tourism he will certainly.... :tired:

donP

Well if you read my whole post, I said DO NOT put things like digital cameras in a position to get stolen in the first place. There are those of us that travel smart (knowing things might get stolen in ANY country) and those that don't heed such warnings and will be sorry later. Also, those that are concerned about the state of tourism are usually not the same thugs stealing your valuables so my point was.... those front line people (usually more educated and in high positions) WILL head your complaints!
 

BushBaby

Silver
Jan 1, 2002
3,829
329
0
78
www.casabush.org
With apologies to sangria for taking this a bit off topic from the original post, let me say that I am surprised there is not more of an outcry by posters with regard to the lack of 'responsibility/control' relating to checked baggage.

When I arrive at the check-in desk my bags have already been searched & released as OK (for schedule flights) or are accepted subject to later X-ray scrutiny by the security system employed at the airport. Once the bags leave my own hands/view, I have absolutely NO CONTROL over what happens to them until I pick them off the carousel at the next port of call (if I need to check them when having an onward flight) or my final destination. If these bags can be so easily broken in to & have stuff taken OUT, they can just as easily be broken in to & have contraband/explosives etc PUT IN TO THEM. What reasons could scurrilous handlers have for putting stuff IN TO my baggage? .......to cause a distraction whilst other bags go through the system totally UN checked. Whilst I readily admit that there are a number of silly idiots who still try to beat the system & carry drugs/contraband to foreign places, I have to wonder how many 'INNOCENT' people have been snared due to stuff being PUT IN to their bags without their knowledge during the period from inspection/check-in to when they try to collect them at the destination terminal? AND IT COULD HAPPEN TO ME OR YOU!!

Airlines &/or airport staff MUST take responsibility for our baggage whilst it is outside of OUR control & in THEIR SOLE control. THEY are the ones who have to institute internal check systems that IMMEDIATELY show how & where baggage has been interfered with, who was the last handler & why he/she had not reported the damage/break in. Failure to institute such measured makes a mockery out of all the other security measurements put in place 'For Our Own Protection'!!! (Yeah, right. WHO protects us from a baggage handler putting explosives/drugs/contraband in to our cases once they are out of our sight???

I know some airport officials sometimes come into DR1 & read what we are saying here - I would be pleased to receive an e-mail (via DR1 e-mail system) OR a PM to tell me how such an event is impossible to happen at PoP airport. Tell me please that the break-ins of the 20 bags of checked luggage did NOT happen at Puerto Plata & that you have a system in place that quickly recognises (AND a report system to back it up) damage to/interference with checked luggage before it is put on to the aeroplane!

Regrettably very few of us have knowledge of what steps our baggage goes through once it leaves the check-in desk until we see it at the 'Other End'. Hence, I must ask:

Is there ANY way an airport worker could put an explosive device into my bags & get away with it?
Is there ANY way drugs could be put into my bags without my knowledge?
Assuming I survive the flight (i.e no-one put explosives in to my case) & land at my destination, how secure am I from being stopped, searched & interrogated because someone had put drugs in my case so as to cause a distraction whilst other bags went through un-checked?

With the record of drugs going through Toronto airport over the last few years, how sure are the Puerto Plata officials that the 20 cases in this last notification of break-ins was not just a distraction for a large consignment of drugs going through?

Just some random thoughts that might generate the concerns of others so that SOMEONE, SOMEHOW, takes responsibility of our luggage during the hours that we are unable to! No offence intended & I hope no offence taken. ~ Grahame.
 

sangria

Bronze
May 16, 2006
939
65
0
You aren't off topic Bushbaby!

One of the people interviewed (victim) brought up some of your concerns.

He said something to the effect that if the bags can be opened and personal items taken then what is stopping those same people from planting drugs in their luggage.

Here is the travellers warning on the Foreign Affairs website pertaining to the Dominican Republic:

Theft of items from checked baggage at airports has been reported. These thefts have taken place most frequently upon departure. Money and personal items have also been stolen from carry-on luggage while travellers are going through security checks. Do not pack valuables in your checked luggage. Items most likely to disappear include electronics (especially digital cameras), jewellery and perfume. All bags are routinely x-rayed on arrival and departure, as part of normal local procedure.

Sangria
 
Last edited:

Lambada

Gold
Mar 4, 2004
9,478
410
0
80
www.ginniebedggood.com
A few comments on this post and the thread in general:

1. Honestly, it`s probably a coincidence BUT being from Toronto, I can attest that Torontonians are proactive and we stick up for ourselves. Most are internet savvy and will post something immediately if wronged because that`s what we do here if, for example, you have a bad restaurant experience, etc.

Sorry Fiesta Mama, I was being too cryptic :cheeky:. I wasn't thinking of tourists & their luggage so much as what this might be a cover for.

Remember Project Merlin back in 2007 'Police say the bust has shut down a smuggling ring that was operating through Pearson International Airport from the Dominican Republic.'
Ontario drug bust nets $3M worth of cocaine

'Police allege those arrested were part of a ring that smuggled dope from the Dominican Republic into Canada on commercial passenger jets, with employees at airports in both countries playing crucial roles.' (emboldening mine)
Hundreds of charges laid in cocaine ring bust

OK that was 2007 but there have been recent hints that one ring might have been taken over by another. Early March 2010 for example
Millions in cocaine seized at Pearson last month

'One week later, during a routine inspection, border agents examined three suitcases on a flight from the Dominican Republic. They discovered that each case contained three children's backpacks stuffed with bricks of cocaine. A total of 100 bricks were seized that day'.

So when I see from sangria's original post that 20 bags on one flight were cut open, rifled through etc etc, I don't ask what got taken, but what got through on that same flight? Not being unsympathetic to the tourists who are missing stuff, but honestly I think this is a bigger problem.

Now note the dates on the next 2 reports, May 4th & 5th about Project Corral
' "As a result of us identifying the Shower Posse we ended up seizing cocaine and identifying cocaine coming in from Panama, Dominican Republic and United States."

As part of the investigation, police seized 72 kilos of cocaine in the Dominican Republic. The drugs were allegedly destined for Toronto. "There are three people from the Toronto area who are in custody in the Dominican," Earl said.'
Police make multiple arrests in early-morning raids

'Oliver ?Twinky? Willis, another Toronto man, was arrested in the Dominican Republic in connection with the cocaine bust. Seven years ago, Willis had first-degree murder charges dropped against him in a Toronto court, after a witness refused to testify.'
Two alleged gang leaders among the arrested

So, might there be a tie up between the rifled bags & what was going down in Toronto? And did the Puerto Plata-Pearson Cocaine Shuttle ever really stop?
 

Fiesta Mama

Bronze
Jan 28, 2004
772
60
0
Lambada - sorry I totally minunderstood what you were getting at in your original post but I didn't mean I was offended... I just didn't get it :) I see what you are saying about the potential for drugs or something else getting put into someone's suitcase but how would the people on the other side know which suitcase to pick-up to get it from??
 

Lambada

Gold
Mar 4, 2004
9,478
410
0
80
www.ginniebedggood.com
I see what you are saying about the potential for drugs or something else getting put into someone's suitcase but how would the people on the other side know which suitcase to pick-up to get it from??

It's called a cellphone ;). The reason police in Canada back in 2007 were able to net so many perps was because they had recordings of the cellphone conversations from this end to Canada, heavily coded. The other thing they do is to use non-tourist bags which get put in with the tourist bags so they can describe identifying marks in advance to the guys at the other end, because they bought the bags & packed them.

Talk to any non-involved friends in the DNCD here next time you're down & they will tell you how well organised it is.
 

Fiesta Mama

Bronze
Jan 28, 2004
772
60
0
It's called a cellphone ;). The reason police in Canada back in 2007 were able to net so many perps was because they had recordings of the cellphone conversations from this end to Canada, heavily coded. The other thing they do is to use non-tourist bags which get put in with the tourist bags so they can describe identifying marks in advance to the guys at the other end, because they bought the bags & packed them.

Talk to any non-involved friends in the DNCD here next time you're down & they will tell you how well organised it is.

That is scary. I've thought about the scenario before about things getting put in one's suitcase but I try not to think about it too much so as to not get too paranoid. I have unfortunately been pulled aside at customs in Toronto before and have had my bags checked because of the number of times that I have travelled to the country... at times alone, which I am sure can raise a lot of flags. However, I try to retain some faith in the system because aside from finding drugs in your bag, they do things like swab your fingers, clothing, etc. to see if you have actually come into contact with the substance which would more likely indicate you were aware of such contraband in your luggage. I am sure there are those that could attest to being harassed when they were innocent but I try and think positive so I will still have a desire to travel abroad :)

To those that have had things stolen... just submit a claim and hopefully airports will continue to be more vigilant in hiring and screening staff that work at airports. I think it's hard to weed out all the bad apples though... especially where financial gains are involved. Also, sometimes someone might start out at the most upstanding employee and eventually be influenced by seeing the gains of others.
 

Lambada

Gold
Mar 4, 2004
9,478
410
0
80
www.ginniebedggood.com
That is scary. I've thought about the scenario before about things getting put in one's suitcase but I try not to think about it too much so as to not get too paranoid. I have unfortunately been pulled aside at customs in Toronto before and have had my bags checked because of the number of times that I have travelled to the country... at times alone, which I am sure can raise a lot of flags.

I got pulled aside in departure lounge at Puerto Plata back in 2007 (10 lbs coffee all in one place in suitcase which showed up as a dark mass on Xray). I didn't know until I went to boarding gate where I discovered I'd been flagged in computer. So downstairs it was, suitcase taken off plane, female CESA officer brought in case I needed body search etc. They were all utterly charming & pleasant, keen to put me at my ease, and because I knew I had nothing in the case except coffee & winter clothes for UK, I was gaily looking round observing the whole process going on with another suspect & not paying much attention to my own case being searched. And then common sense took over & I realised that something could be slipped IN so I suddenly became very observant of my own case search. They noticed & asked if I was feeling ok (poor old thing!) & I said yes but just checking I wasn't left with any regalos. They were really shocked, genuinely, until they saw the smile & twinkle in my eye.

But I don't think it does any harm to politely share that you know the score.