Detectives and officers from the Los Angeles and airport police departments served warrants and seized property Wednesday night at 25 different locations, including the airport itself and in Los Angeles-area cities, including Inglewood and Paramount, said Assistant Chief Michael Hyams of the airport police.
The investigation, which involved officers going undercover among baggage handlers, began after a string of reports of luggage thefts from terminals, runways and planes, police said.
"We believe that there has been a culture of being able to take property that wasn't theirs, and that's what we want to be able to put a stop to," Capt. Ray Maltez told KABC-TV.
Those arrested were primarily employees or ex-employees of contracting companies hired to handle luggage and do not work for the airport itself, Hyams said. The suspects underwent employment and criminal background checks before being authorized to work at the airport, officials said.
Television news showed police raiding airport terminals and leading out several people in handcuffs, many of them wearing yellow reflective safety vests.
Most of the police activity was at the Tom Bradley International Terminal and at Terminal 4, which houses American Airlines, American Eagle and some Qantas flights.
Police set up a mobile command center and jail near the airport to process those arrested.
Detectives seized items including jewelry, electronics, clothing, and other personal belongings believed to be stolen property. Officials will attempt to return the items to their owners.
The raids were first reported by KNBC-TV.
Every year about 55 million pieces of luggage are checked at LAX, which served nearly 67 million passengers last year.