DENVER (CBS4) - Denver police say they are "actively investigating" a new airport bag theft that occurred just a few feet away and at precisely the same time that police and airport administrators were being interviewed by CBS4 about how few bag thefts they have at the airport.
"It doesn't happen often," said Denver International Airport spokesperson Stacey Stegman last Wednesday afternoon between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. as she was being interviewed in the baggage claim area.
But police have now confirmed that simultaneous to that interview an unidentified woman stole a bag that was sitting nearby, looted it, and then abandoned it at a different airport location.
Sgt. Rick Stager of the Denver Police Department's airport unit said, "I just wanted to confirm that there was indeed a theft of a bag belonging to Thomas Prehn just a carousel or two away from where you were filming. The bag was rifled through and then dumped in another location in the airport.
"We have video of the suspect stealing the bag off of the carousel and walking away with the bag," Stager said.
Prehn, a Boulder businessman and former professional cyclist, was returning to DIA from an out-of-town trip when his bag was snatched. After it was found hours later in the Southwest Airlines baggage claim area, he reported to police that nearly $2,700 in clothing, sporting goods and a camera had been lifted from the bag.
Prehn told CBS4 that all markings on the bag that identified it as his had been removed.
"It's kind of amazing how much you can lose," said Prehn.
He said Denver police provided him a picture of the woman wheeling away his bag and he shared the photo with CBS4. The photo was taken from video captured by a DIA surveillance camera. The bag thief appears to be wearing glasses, carrying a red purse and wearing an unusual animal hat.
Prehn said there is "no doubt" the woman caught on tape was wheeling his bag away from the carousel.
Airport administrators say such thefts are rare, and last week's theft of Prehn's suitcase would be only the 16th reported bag theft from the airport's baggage carousel areas in 2013.
DIA officials concede the number of actual bag thefts might be higher as most passengers who lose a bag will simply report it to their airline, hoping for reimbursement.
- Written by Brian Maass for CBSDenver.com
for more features.