Faces of Theft, Part 2: Robbery Risks and Situational Awareness

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. 


Travel guru Rick Steves anecdotally reported that as many as 4 out of 5 of his tourists have lost a camera during one of his summer tours, whether through absent-mindedness or straight up robbery. This is not a dig against his tours, or any tour. Tours are generally extremely safe, as is most travel. This just illustrates how vulnerable one can be when traveling far from home or even in their own neighborhood – with an organized group or independently. Cameras are a huge part of why we enjoy trips so we almost always have them with us and thieves everywhere prey on that.

Indian tourist outside buckingham palace holding a map and his camera

While robbery only makes up about 8-10% of gear lost on Lenstag, it’s still a huge problem and a huge bummer, not to mention possibly life threatening. Here are 10 tips to help reduce risk:

  • When going through security at the airport, never put your camera gear or laptop on the conveyor until it is your turn to walk through. While rare, there are people who will intentionally hold up lines while a friend on the other side snags your goods. Don’t end up on the other side wondering where everything went!
  • Unsurprisingly, more people report getting robbed when alone than in pairs. When shooting or even just shopping, bring someone with you.
  • Distraction is your enemy. Craftier thieves will sometimes try and bombarded you with some insane inconvenience, like spilling something on you, in an effort to take your gear or even just remove the lens straight off your camera body. This can go so far as a planted nail in your car tire. Be wary of overly quick “help” when you’re pulled over on the side of the road. Lock your doors, call for help. Tell them you’ve got it covered.
  • If you’re making a building exit, you’re entering vulnerability. Be extra mindful of your gear when leaving events, stores, or public transportation.
  • Hotel safety is covered in Part 1. If you’re staying somewhere particularly risky, keeping a door stopper wedged under your door while you’re inside might be prudent. If you’re extra worried, they make these stops with alarms built in.
  • It’s possible that the type of bag you carry may make a difference. On one hand, travelers usually want to be as discreet as possible. But plain, hard-to-identify black bags can be appealing to thieves, too. Colorful or otherwise unique bags might help keep some of the more risk-averse thieves away. After all, they don’t want to be carrying off with anything immediately eye-catching.
  • Similarly, downplaying your camera’s value with brand hiding or faux wear-and-tear has so-so results. On one hand, it makes sense to artificially distress your gear to make it seem less appealing. On the other hand, this is a well-worn trick that a lot of thieves are already wise to.
  • Anything that uniquely identifies your gear helps law enforcement. Make note of scratches and other particulars about your equipment for reference later if you have to make a report.
  • Robberies increase over a holiday. Take extra care of your gear on these days.
  • When carrying gear with you to an outing or event, try not to park near anybody who is just sitting inside their parked car seemingly doing nothing. Also, don’t take shortcuts to your shooting destination, like alleys, over fields, or across random parking lots. Stick to the main sidewalks and walkways.

Stay tuned for Part III of Faces of Theft, where we’ll talk about what happens after gear is stolen, how to increase chances of recovery, and also update everyone on a few of Lenstag’s own recoveries! If you missed Part I: Gear Stolen from Secure Locations, you can read it here.


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