RDU travelers file hundreds of complaints against TSA

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s one of the busiest travel times of the year which means security will be ramped up at airports across the country.

But while Transportation Security Administration agents are watching you, CBS North Carolina Investigates looked into who is watching the TSA agents.

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“It’s nerve-racking, people get into the TSA line, they’re nervous. ‘Do I have anything on me? Anything I need to take out of my bag?’ It’s hard to stay focused on, ‘hey, did I just have a TSA agent take something out of my bag unlawfully?’” explained Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org.

“Working in a checkpoint is a demanding environment. We do not have the luxury to fail. We do have some issues with misconduct and even one, is one too many,” said Huban Gowadia, deputy director of the TSA.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report that found misconduct grew by almost 29 percent from 2013 to 2015.

This covered anything form agents showing up late for work to theft.

Read the report on misconduct

“Seventeen percent of all theft is TSA, 83 percent is baggage handlers. So you really do have to be hyper-vigilant when you go through and double check all of your items after you get through the checkpoint to make sure everything you had when you went into the checkpoint is still in your bag when you left,” Hanni said.

And it turns out it’s not something the federal agency is rushing to talk about.

Each year, nearly 10 million passengers travel through Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

CBS North Carolina Investigates filed a public records request in 2013 asking for complaints filed against TSA workers at RDU.

It took the TSA three years to process our request.

We received 10 pages of unorganized complaints in font so tiny, it was barely readable.

Read the list of complaints

list-of-complaints

The claims range from inappropriate behavior by agents to missing or broken laptops, clothing, cellphones, tablets, money clips, and other items.

“I read through all of those complaints that I was sent by CBS and it was very clear to me that there was no adequate resolution for the majority of them,” said Hanni. “What we hear on the hotline from thousands of people are items that are virtually missing when they arrive at their destination and people are really upset and they don’t really know who did it whether it was TSA or the airlines.”

If the TSA searches your bag, they are supposed to leave you a Notice of Inspection that lets you know your bag was searched.

Several of the missing item complaints from RDU said that Notices of Inspection letters were found in their bags.

After requesting an interview for months, CBS North Carolina Investigates talked about the complaints with Sari Koshetz, the TSA spokeswoman for the region.

She happened to be at RDU for a TSA media event.

Notice of Inspection
Notice of Inspection

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for misconduct in the workplace. We have a zero tolerance for theft,” said Koshetz.

According to Koshetz, out of the complaints CBS North Carolina Investigates received, “There were very few that had notices of inspection and certainly if one of our officers was responsible for than that person will be reimbursed.”

But the records show reimbursements are rare.

“Only about 40 percent of the time are the claims resolved. The only type of item we see almost 100-percent resolution with is when drugs are stolen out a people’s bags,” said Hanni.

Koshetz said they process missing item complaints as fast as they can, but said they often have trouble contacting passengers.

Koshetz also said not all feedback the TSA at RDU receives is negative. The agency gets compliments from travelers, too.

So how can you keep your stuff from getting in the wrong hands?

“We recommend strongly that you put a TSA lock on your bag and that lock can be opened with a key by our officers if they have to search your bag,” said Koshetz.

Koshetz said to keep your eye on your bags as they move through the security checkpoint.

Hunni said to avoid taking such items through a TSA checkpoint altogether.

“We encourage people to mail their valuable items to their destination with insurance before they leave so they don’t have to suffer the risk of a theft damage or loss,” said Hanni.

There were also complaints from passengers about not being able to do this because of the lines.

If you have a missing or broken item you can file a claim with the TSA.

FlyersRights.org also encourages travelers to reach out to them if they need help reporting a claim.

You can find more allegations of theft, lost, and broken items at other airports here.

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