TSA lost and found sees increase in items left behind during holiday travel

NEWARK, N.J.- Airports across the United States are starting to see another surge of holiday travelers and with it comes a spike in the number of items people mistakenly leave behind at TSA check points.

What you may not know, is the TSA has a team actively trying to reunite people with their belongings.

Matt Kelley’s watch belonged to his father who died when Kelley was four. Its band was a gift from his stepfather, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this month.

Kelley was rushing home to Dallas the day his stepfather died and left it at a TSA checkpoint at Liberty Airport in Newark.

“Kind of a gut punch, how could this one thing happen on this one day?” said Kelley.

The watch ended up at a TSA lost and found, one of 18,000 items left at Newark’s checkpoints every year.

“There’s all types of sunglasses, key and headsets, everything imaginable, anything you might leave when traveling,” said Ofelia Ruiz, TSA Customer Support Manager.

Ruiz’s job is to get these things returned to their owners.

There’s a drawer of drivers licenses and passports, a closet full of jewelry, rows of coats, shelves of computers, bins of lost keys, and even luggage.

“One to two bags are left behind on a daily basis,” said Ruiz.

The TSA holds the items for 30 days, but only about 10 percent is ever claimed.

“Tape your business card to the back of your laptop. If we have an identifier, name and number we are going to call you,” said Ruiz.

Kelley called the TSA after going online, the lost and founds number is on the agency’s website.

“It was great to have it back, it meant a lot have it for the funeral that Friday,” said Kelley.

The watch that brings back memories of the two men who shaped his life, once again back around his wrist and close to his heart.

The TSA lost and found is only for items left at security checkpoints, not for things left throughout the entire airport.