British Columbia

The case of the missing sneakers: $9K worth allegedly stolen from checked airport luggage

When Dejan Pralica brought along a number of pairs of the high-priced shoes and opened his checked luggage after a recent flight from Toronto to Vancouver, he was shocked to find it missing nearly half its contents.

Air Canada investigating to determine which airport the shoes were taken from

While on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver, four pairs of rare sneakers went missing from Dejan Pralica's checked baggage. (Joel Ballard/CBC News)

The walls of Dejan Pralica's home office are lined with row upon row of sneakers — a multicolour collection, spanning classic high tops to self-lacing footwear.

So when Pralica brought along a number of pairs of the high-priced shoes and opened his checked luggage after a recent flight from Toronto to Vancouver, he was shocked to find it missing almost half its contents.

Four pairs of both his and his wife's sneakers, totalling around $9,000, were gone. The most expensive were a pair of Air Yeezy 1 Blink's which currently retail online for more than $4,500.

"Everything was taken out but one pair of shoes. I just didn't believe someone had gone in and stolen it," said Pralica.

Dejan Pralica says he can't understand how someone could open his luggage and walk away with four pairs of sneakers without being noticed. (CBC News/Martin Diotte)

Although he was frustrated about his shoes, Pralica says it raises a bigger question about how secure checked baggage really is.

 "The fact that someone could come away with half a suitcase worth of items without anyone noticing and go on with their day, it seems crazy to me. There must be more thefts happening," he said. 

Pralica filed a report with Peel Police, which is responsible for Toronto Pearson Aiport, but before they can do anything Air Canada needs to finish conducting its own investigation.

It is currently working to identify which airport the shoes were allegedly stolen from.

'Baggage changes hands many times from start to end of a trip'

Once you check your bag in with a specific airline, the airline becomes 100 per cent responsible for it, according to YVR.

CBC News reached out to Air Canada which said it is working with the police, but reminded us that "baggage changes hands many times from the start to the end of a trip, as baggage systems are under the jurisdiction of individual airport authorities" and that  it recommends "valuables be packed in carry-on baggage as well as ensuring appropriate insurance covers high-value items when travelling."

The airport — YYZ or YVR, in this case — is only responsible for providing and maintaining the infrastructure that transfers the luggage through the airport, not the staff, which is employed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority [CATSA].

While your checked luggage travels along the system through the airport, it is also X-rayed by CATSA security before it is cleared for loading.

The airline's own baggage handlers then load the bags into carts to transport them to the aircraft for loading.

YYZ says its restricted baggage area is monitored by cameras, YVR wouldn't confirm.

In a statement to CBC News, CATSA says its priority is to offer the highest level of security to the public but noted it isn't solely responsible for baggage.

"It is important to note that checked baggage is handled by various people, including airline staff at check-in counters and baggage handlers."

CATSA says the passenger has not yet filed a complaint which is a required first step for it to launch an investigation. 

An empty case (top right) where Dejan Pralica's Air Yeezy 1 Blinks used to sit. However, he says it's not so much the shoes that concern him as the apparent lack of security for checked baggage. (Martin Diotte/CBC News)

Taking the future of his sneakers in his own hands

Feeling like his case was just going to be written off as an insurance claim, Pralica decided to enlist the help of Canada's sneaker enthusiast Twitter community  —  more than 40,000 strong.

The avid collector is also the owner of two sneaker-centric digital media platforms, both with large member bases.

"I did my due diligence and tipped off everyone in the sneaker community," said Pralica.

Almost immediately, his members started commenting, saying they were checking consignment stores and Facebook groups, where rare sneakers are often resold. 

He says the sneaker sleuths have already sent him many links to shops that may be selling his shoes.

But. in the end, Pralica says it's not about the sneakers.

"I just really want someone to take some accountability for it," said Pralica. "Air Canada or the airport... someone has to know what happened." 

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