lose laptops at airport checkpoints Hundreds forgotten or
stolen at security
By Chris Woodyard
Stricter airport security is producing
an unwelcome byproduct: a rash of lost laptop computers.
Lost-and-found counters report being flooded with jewelry,
keys, cellphones and especially laptops left behind at
checkpoints since enhanced screening went into effect after
Airports where misplaced laptops and other personal
electronics are showing up include:
* Seattle-Tacoma. Screeners turned in 115
laptops left at checkpoints in the last three months of 2001.
That compares with three laptops turned in during the same
period of 2000. A worker has been assigned full time to try to
track down laptop owners.
* Denver. Ninety-six laptops and 74
cellphones were recovered at security checkpoints over two
weeks alone from Jan. 28 to Feb. 11. The problem has become so
acute that airport officials have posted signs saying ''Got
laptop?'' in hopes that passengers will catch a glimpse as
they leave checkpoints.
* San Francisco. Police are investigating the
disappearance of nine laptops recently from a single
checkpoint. Officers recommended that private security
screeners make changes to help reduce the losses.
The problem stems from new procedures that require
passengers to remove their laptops from their cases and put
them through X-ray machines. They forget to pick them up or
grab a stranger's laptop by mistake.
''It's clearly connected to the change of habit,'' says
Dennis Hatch, who runs Seattle-Tacoma's lost-and-found
It's even worse for fliers who are singled out for magnetic
wand searches and may be separated from their valuables on the
X-ray belt for minutes.
Hatch says he constantly fields calls from
''well-established, professional, intelligent individuals who
break down in tears'' from losing a laptop. ''Their day is
The new Transportation Security Administration has already
ordered security screeners as soon as possible to let
passengers stay within sight of X-rayed valuables while being
''It's common sense,'' spokesman Jim Mitchell says.
Private security-screening companies say it's not their job
to sort out passengers' belongings coming through the X-ray
''As a general rule, we're not there to make sure everybody
gets their stuff,'' says Jessica Neal, spokeswoman for
Huntleigh, one of the largest screening companies. ''We're
there to make sure everyone's safe and secure.''
Business fliers and their companies are hoping for
''I hear horror stories every day,'' says Kevin Iwamoto,
travel manager for Hewlett-Packard, who has had to deal with
employees who have reported laptops stolen at checkpoints.
He suggests travelers tape colored paper to laptops to