Faces of Theft, Part 1: Gear Stolen from Secure Locations

Faces of Theft is a 3-part series covering different aspects of theft and things you can do to help mitigate being a victim. Part 1 covers gear stolen from secure locations, like your home or a hotel. Part 2 covers robberies and how to improve your situational awareness. Part 3 discusses already-stolen gear and how to increase your chances of recovery. In Part 3, we’ll also update you on Lenstag’s own recoveries so far. 


For 3 years running, Lenstag’s statistical data has shown that camera and other electronic equipment is stolen most often out of homes and cars, with robberies (covered in Part 2) being relatively rare.

cameragearstolenstatsLenstag2015.jpg
How gear was stolen in 2015. More info here. See 2014 and 2013 as well.

Penalties for a property crime are typically less severe than those of a crime against a person (at least in the U.S.). This is just one of the reasons a camera in your car or home is especially targeted. Gear is vulnerable to theft even from shipping packages and from hotel rooms.

You can’t protect your gear from all risks all of the time. After all, it’s normal to have gear in your home, your hotel room, or to have it shipped somewhere. Here are 10 tips to help reduce risk:

  • Warmer months experience more burglaries than colder months. Be a little more paranoid in the summer by locking everything up when not in use.
  • The type of dwelling you’re in will determine how appealing it is to thieves. Role play as a thief and really analyze your space. Is it easy to scale? Does it have a lot of tree cover? Are you keeping a predictable schedule?
  • Garage doors are usually a home’s weakest link, as well as a given entrance’s door jams. Lock strike plates are usually drilled into soft wood and easy to kick in. Upgrade/reinforce your plate where needed.
  • Add a “charley bar” to your patio doors. Other basics include having outdoor motion lights and, of course, the old standard: home alarm systems.
  • Hotel safes are great but staff usually have a master key. It’s unlikely but people can access your locked items this way. Feel free to lock the already-locked safe! There are special locks you can get to add to an already-locked safe so that only you can access it during your trip.
  • Make your hotel room seem occupied even when you’re out. TV on, lights on, etc. Note, though, that leaving your lights on at home doesn’t work the same way. It isn’t normal for people to keep their lights all the time, which signals to people that you aren’t home.
  • The easiest way to avoid package theft is to simply set up your shipment so that it never gets delivered to an unattended location, like work or a UPS Store/FedEx Store/Amazon Locker. You can usually reroute packages after they’ve already been shipped (something to keep in mind if you suspect someone rerouted something for you surreptitiously). Also, did you know that a lot of credit card companies cover package loss if you used their card to purchase your item? Worth inquiring about.
  • Thieves typically give themselves just 20 seconds to break into a car to steal something. Your camera is just as at risk being in a car when you run into a store for 1 minute as it is being left for hours. If you MUST leave something in your car, trunks are an OK bet (if only barely) since they usually take too long to break into.
  • Always choose the parking spot under a street lamp when you can.
  • What doesn’t work? Hiding your gear inside “garbage” in your car. Thieves will just look inside the garbage.

We’ll soon be publishing even more tips, along with helpful info about recoveries. All gear can’t be protected all of the time but our collective best bet is to ensure registration and always checking to see if gear is stolen prior to secondhand purchase. Be sure to register your equipment for free on Lenstag if you haven’t already done so. We’re the trusted registry of rental houses all over the country and of photographers, videographers, and creatives the world over.


Sources for this blog post:

mpdc.dc.gov
http://www.crimedoctor.com

suitcasestories.com
http://www.consumerreports.org
http://www.portlandoregon.gov/police
http://www.sjpd.org
http://www.ricksteves.com
&
our own research based on voluntary user info

3 thoughts on “Faces of Theft, Part 1: Gear Stolen from Secure Locations

  1. – Electronic lamp/appliance timers which allow you to program lights on and off each day at different times. About $10 at discount stores.
    – The only way I know to prevent a car break in is leave it spotless on the inside. A thief will look in and see, nothing, and move on. I leave nothing on the seats or floor. I do leave an ice scrapper under the seat and still some paper maps in door pockets but, those have no value and look like they belong there.
    – Drive a basic car. But, not a Honda, Toyota or the other top stolen cars and trucks (Google it). Some basic GM or Ford. A sedan. Nothing too fancy. Loosing the vehicle and the gear would be bad indeed. I drive a car that is 10 years old, damaged on one side. Why would anyone want it?! Clearly the owner is poor and does not care. Move on… (plus the factory alarm works as does the ignition kill)
    – Beware of dog signs help deter. On gates and back entry doors. Dog or no dog, crooks hate dogs. Especially small, yappy ones.
    – Leave a radio on if you are out for just the day (not a long time vacation – for that, set a timer to turn it on and off various times).
    – Once you get to know your neighbors, ask them if they might park a car in your drive while you are gone and keep an eye on the place too.
    – Deadbolts. Preferably not the kind from Home Depot or Lowes but a special kind from a lock smith that is harder to foil. When those are put in, have him install strike boxes with long screws into the frame of the building, NOT the door structure.
    This is the only way to ensure doors are not kicked in other than a special floor door stop device on the inside. But then, how do you get in normally or out in an emergency?!
    If there are signs of awareness of security by the home or car owner, this tells the scum, it might be worth it to skip versus carelessness by the owner, which means worth it to check.
    Doubt that an empty car would have ANYTHING of value in it (anywhere). Doubt that the lights are on or the radio is on. Doubt that a dog might be home or in a yard. Doubt versus risk is the deterrent.
    Crooks are inherently lazy and look for exploits based on the one thing they know best, laziness. The rest who are not lazy are smart and only rob rich houses and locations.
    But they have alarms! you say.
    Alarms that are not working 90% of the time because of incorrect installation (most common problem) or lack of maintenance or owner misuse. Often you THINK the alarm is fully on but most systems have broken parts or missed entry points.

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