Action News Investigative Team hunts down stolen luggage swiped at Philadelphia airport

Philadelphia International Airport's top cop talks exclusively about a surge in airport crime.

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Thursday, October 19, 2023
Action News Investigative Team hunts down stolen luggage swiped at Philadelphia airport
Action News Investigative Team hunts down stolen luggage swiped at Philadelphia airport

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The fatal shooting of Officer Richard Mendez at the Philadelphia International Airport during an attempted car theft last week is another stark reminder of the ongoing crime problem.

The Action News Investigative team had been investigating airport crime prior to the shooting. Our team found an eye-opening surge: 2023 continues to be on pace for the most airport crimes in a decade.

Property crime and thefts are included in the uptick, and that involves stolen luggage.

The Investigative Team followed the journey of one stolen bag after receiving a tip from Mickey Pegg.

He said his bag was stolen from Philadelphia International Airport after returning from a trip in September. Pegg waited and waited for the conveyor belt to spit out his luggage.

"I said, 'It's right down in that hole, all you got to do is go down there and just get it. Could somebody please get it?' She told me that was not the procedure," recalled Pegg.

He said he was told his luggage would be delivered when found.

Pegg's bag was armed with an Apple AirTag, and Pegg said he found it odd because the tracker showed his luggage was on the move.

It appeared to stay overnight at a home on the 5800 block of Landsdowne Avenue in West Philadelphia.

"The next morning it actually goes back to the airport," he said. "I kid you not."

The bag then pinged again, this time at 55th and Pine streets outside the 18th District for Philadelphia Police and Southwest Detectives.

When Pegg's wife arrived, he said police told her they'd arrested someone for stealing luggage. But his luggage was not among those recovered.

"I'm like, 'It's in the parking lot right now,'" he recalled.

The following day the bag was on the move again, and this time the AirTag showed it moving over the Ben Franklin Bridge into New Jersey.

That's when Pegg turned to the Investigative Team.

We sped off to the Cherry Hill Mall where the AirTag continued to ping to a parking lot behind the Macy's. The lot was largely empty except for a parked white Range Rover with two people who appeared to be waiting inside. The tracker showed the luggage was in the same spot.

But soon after, the Range Rover and Pegg's luggage was on the move. Unable to follow them, we followed the AirTags movements.

Eventually, we pulled up to the TD Bank in Camden about six miles from the mall. The white Range Rover was also there but the second passenger was gone.

Investigative Reporter Chad Pradelli told the passenger about the AirTag hidden inside Pegg's bag.

"We tracked it to the Cherry Hill Mall and your car was there and now we tracked it to here," Pradelli said.

The woman spotted by our team at the mall in the SUV admitted she saw us there but then denied having any luggage.

Action News called Philadelphia police who are now investigating.

So far, there have been no charges, but the alleged luggage theft is among a growing number of crimes in Philadelphia.

Since this summer, our team has been looking into the uptick in crimes at the airport and analyzing police crime reports. Action News found there have been 956 crimes at the airport through mid-October. That number is on pace for a more than 50% uptick compared to the 770 crimes in all of 2022.

Our analysis found theft is by far the most common, with nearly 700 this year, 112 of which are auto thefts.

In July, eight vehicles in a parking garage were also vandalized.

"It's my job to make sure passengers feel safe," said Captain Samantha Brown, who is the top cop for the Airport Police Unit.

In an exclusive interview before Officer Mendez had been killed, Captain Brown blamed the uptick in passenger travel for the increase in property crime.

She said there had been an ongoing car theft issue.

"We did have a little issue with our garages around the time that I got here," she said. "So we did see an uptick in vehicles being stolen from the garages and we had an ongoing investigation, we are close to bringing it in."

Pegg, a cigar company owner, said his missing bag had about $4,000 in belongings in it including $1,000 worth of high-end cigars.

The thieves did eventually ditch the AirTag, which again tracked back in West Philadelphia.

Pegg had put in a claim with the airline but has yet to receive any compensation.

"At this point, maybe an apology and pay me the money they owe me," he said.

An airport spokesperson also declined our request for an on-camera interview but said safety, security and peace at the airport are top priorities.