Car theft crackdown at Atlanta airport

Atlanta Police are cracking down on thieves who are stealing cars from the world's busiest airport.

Earlier this year, FOX 5 Atlanta reported on cars disappearing from the airport at an alarming rate.

The chief of police says three suspects have been arrested, and the number of cars being stolen has dramatically decreased.

Travelers exit from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. Airline passenger numbers in the U.S. totaled 2.12 million on Dec. 19, compared with 1.06 million the same weekday a year

Officers shared surveillance video that appears to show one of the suspects, Mathew Freeman, lurking at the curb at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Police say you can see him waiting for the right moment to jump inside a running truck and drive off. They call it a "crime of opportunity."

"He would hang around the curb out here. We had some of our visitors who were dropping off, or picking up passengers. They left their keys in the vehicle and their vehicles running. He would slide in the vehicle and drive off," Major Kelly Collier explained.

The major says Freeman successfully pulled off the heist three times, but was finally busted as he tried to get away during the fourth attempt.

The air traffic control tower at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) on September 10, 2022. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

With 30,000 parking spaces at the world's busiest airport, the parking decks have been a popular target too.

The major says officers arrested Nicolas Pinkston and another man who are believed to be part of a complex operation. It's an international auto theft ring that preys on travelers who park at the airport.

"It was some great work that was done by our detectives downtown to apprehend two individuals that are part of a theft ring," Major Collier said. "It's extremely easy to now program a key to a vehicle.

Collier says crooks can make master keys with an online device in just 10 minutes.

Airport police have deployed more personnel in the decks, and they have upgraded hardware to prevent crooks from driving off undetected.

"We are implementing devices to prevent tailgating, and we have reduced the time frame you can be in the deck without paying. These arrests are extremely significant, and it's really stopped or slowed down the auto thefts that were occurring out here," the major said.