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Author Topic: How can I prevent theft?  (Read 9867 times)
marimagen
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« on: September 22, 2009, 04:15:56 AM »
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Hello,
I will be travelling shortly to places where getting mugged is pretty common if you're wearing a nice watch or an expensive camera. I intend to take my D3 along and I'm kind of afraid they'll snatch it way from me. Is there a way to make a camera less obstrusive so that it doesn't stand out so much like a "rob me" item? Thanks, Marie
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David Sutton
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« Reply #1 on: September 22, 2009, 05:41:05 AM »
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Quote from: marimagen
Hello,
I will be travelling shortly to places where getting mugged is pretty common if you're wearing a nice watch or an expensive camera. I intend to take my D3 along and I'm kind of afraid they'll snatch it way from me. Is there a way to make a camera less obstrusive so that it doesn't stand out so much like a "rob me" item? Thanks, Marie
If you must travel somewhere you don't feel safe, I'd urge you to hire a bodyguard. Plus wear old clothes, keep your gear in a pack or bag that looks like maybe it contains your lunch, and walk as if you know where you are going. Don't dawdle or gape at street signs.
David
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atassy
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« Reply #2 on: September 22, 2009, 07:19:27 AM »
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don't wear a watch or camera, then  

seriously now, use the smallest, least expensive looking gear you can get away with.
if you need to use something like your D3, hide the brand logo etc. by sticking black tape over it. get rid of the strap with the brand name, and replace it with a generic, preferably old and dirty one.
don't carry your gear openly. as taquin says, put it in something inconspicuous. it may even be an old plastic shopping bag.

depending on the place, you will probably stand out as not being a local no matter what you wear. so just don't wear anything flashy or new, especially no jewelery or other 'bling'. probably best to wear absolutely unremarkable clothes of no too specific style. keep electronics (mobile phone, PDA etc) out of sight and don't use dedicated cases for them.

your attitude is also very important. don't give the impression of being a victim or target. on the other hand, also don't appear as stand-offish or aggressive, or defensive or paranoid. i'm not sure how to describe - maybe be alert but keep your head down. i have a way of being aware of my surroundings while keeping my eyes on the pavement in front of me when walking down the street as if i had absolutely no interest in what was going on around me, and was just on my way to somewhere.
get the bearings of the area before you go in so that you don't need to pull out a map or stare at street signs for too long. it's fine to be looking around but don't appear lost.

if possible, you could also go on a stroll through the area without your gear first, to familiarise yourself with it. this gives you more confidence for when you're back shooting.

how would you react if people approached you? they may be genuine, but then you may also get those that are testing you out, or just plainly abusing you for fun.

by the time you take out your camera to shoot, know what you're going to do and do it fast, not having it out in plain sight for too long. then pack it away and move on. make sure you're not being followed.

and lastly, be prepared to lose something. these are just precautions that don't guarantee you not being stripped of your gear. if that happens, give it up and walk away - stay out of trouble. keep changing memory cards so that not all your shots are gone with the camera, if it happens.

depending on the area a bodyguard may be something to consider, as taquin pointed out. personally, i've never used one although i've been in some parts that have a fairly bad reputation. my experience is in 'bad parts of town', in cities in europe and north america. not sure how it applies to where you intend to go.
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Alex MacPherson
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« Reply #3 on: September 22, 2009, 08:22:14 AM »
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Don't look like a victim.

Strong confident body language will make any would-be
thief think twice about trying anything. They like to prey on easy targets.
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SeanBK
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« Reply #4 on: September 22, 2009, 08:33:31 AM »
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All of above are great but if you can be more specific, i.e Country/Town then peeps here can definately give you more specific help. As we all travel albeit may be with different gears.
  Good luck.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2009, 08:34:46 AM by SeanBK » Logged
framah
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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2009, 09:25:40 AM »
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So... you're going to Newark, NJ??

In this country, you will have an easier time as you are of this country. In other countries, you will probably stand out like a sore thumb.  The way i got a round being mugged in Newark and NYC was to act and look like I was confident in my abilities to defend myself. Muggers can tell quickly whether you are an easy mark or if they might have a bit of trouble pulling it off. They want it go quickly and with as little hassle  as possible. They really don't want to work too hard to get what they want.  In other countries, this might not work as well as they will know right away that you are from away and that does make you an easier target.

Try going out with a group of people. Definitely less chance of a mugging that way.
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« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2009, 10:03:37 AM »
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Quote from: atassy
if you need to use something like your D3, hide the brand logo etc. by sticking black tape over it.

Do you seriously suggest to take one of the largest bodies the industry creates and stick tape on the logos hoping it is going to look smaller? If you do, I would suggest the opposite, as you could use the D3 to defend yourself, and so any tape on it makes the body softer.
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Rob C
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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2009, 10:50:26 AM »
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There is an obvious solution: leave such nonsense to the professionals who probably won't get any money for it either, but might be able to enjoy their death-wish over and over again.

If you watch Al Jazeera tv you might have discovered that their journos in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. are locals who still get killed just because of the fact that they are recording something; you could be doing the same thing and not even be aware of what's going down in front of your innocent M9 which you have just bought to use in place of your equally innocent but bulkier Nikon.

I was doing a part of a shoot on the beach near Carmichael Village on New Providence many years ago. We had hired a VW and driven down a small track and parked on the edge of the sand. During a break, one of the girls wandered off to the car, sitting with the tailgate wide open, bodies, lenses etc. spread out for easy access, when she came back to us and asked where I'd put her music. I hadn't touched it. Yet there, the car parked only about thirty yards away, someone had figured we were distracted, crept round from the bushes, stolen the Walkman but ignored the photo stuff. I don't know if the fact that Bacardi had a factory quite nearby had anything to do with it or not.

Of course, when we finished the shots we went to the local fuzz and explained what had happened. They looked at us like we were insane, pointed to some home-made guns in a showcase on the wall, Saturday Night Specials, I think they called them, and more or less told us to wake up.

I did see their point. It may look like Paradise, it may smell like Paradise...

Rob C
« Last Edit: September 22, 2009, 10:51:34 AM by Rob C » Logged

atassy
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« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2009, 01:42:04 PM »
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Quote from: ThomasPoeschmann
Do you seriously suggest to take one of the largest bodies the industry creates and stick tape on the logos hoping it is going to look smaller? If you do, I would suggest the opposite, as you could use the D3 to defend yourself, and so any tape on it makes the body softer.

well i haven't figured out the trick yet of using tape to decrease objects in size. blacking out the logo doesn't make the body substantially softer, but you decrease the chances a little of being hit by the guys who only recognise the brand name. it will, of course, still be a large body that screams 'valuable' to those that pay attention. that's why my first suggestion was to use something smaller and less conspicuous.

i've also heard the stories of people using a camera or lens to ward off an attacker. if you go somewhere were you count on your camera gear to defend yourself with i would suggest, however, that you either stay home or get some proper weapon instead. that's just an unrealistic, macho idea.
the best insurance is to stay away from trouble.
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Pete Ferling
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2009, 10:02:36 PM »
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When deployed overseas we always used the 'buddy system', going ashore alone was forbidden. An extra set of eyes and fists were things thieves avoid.  Trust no one, or trust them as far as you toss'em.  You don't have to be paranoid or mean, just be aware of the attitudes around you and those whom are overly friendly without reason or cause.  However, I found most people to be generally friendly... There was a time I over did it at a bar in Toulon and woke up on the ship the next morning.  Apparently some locals drove me back to fleet landing and my money was still in the wallet.  

You can also be a familiar foreigner as well.  If you plan your day, knowing exactly where you are going (and areas to avoid) and stick to plan, you'll do fine.  A show of confidence goes a long way in how others read you.
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John Camp
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« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2009, 12:17:45 AM »
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I once spent several years training at a karate school, and one of the female instructors also held awareness classes for women, particularly directed at women who had reason to worry about their physical security (nurses on the night shift, waitresses in late-night clubs, etc.) One of her key training things was to urge women to assess what they were doing -- if you think there's a possibility of some behavior getting you in trouble, don't do it. If it's convenient to go out to the parking structure alone, but possibly dangerous, then don't do it. I would suggest that if you're thinking about going somewhere that you might get mugged, don't go there. Especially don't go there with a camera -- it's not so much that they might steal the camera, it's that a camera has a certain outsider aggression to it, and that tends to piss off the people who get easily pissed off. It's a turf thing. Is it really worth getting beaten up or raped to get a photograph? I knew a women reporter who went to a routine street crime in Minneapolis (no camera) and the gang guys around got pissed off just because she was there, and burned her car -- and the cops were there. I know another well-known female photographer who got terribly beaten by a cab driver in Jerusalem because of her political opinions. Don't get "chickened" into it, either -- don't let people push you into doing something you don't want to do. This would be easier to talk about if we had an idea of where you're going. Different attitudes are needed in different places, and some places, you just shouldn't go. If you're talking about visiting Venice and the major kind of crime is purse snatching and pick-pocketing, that's one thing; if you're talking about Kirkuk or the North Philly Badlands, that 's completely different.

The karate instructor would make the point that yes, you do have a perfect legal right to go to the biker bar at midnight on Saturday, but if you get raped, even if they catch the guy and put him in prison, you won't get unraped.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2009, 12:19:55 AM by John Camp » Logged
David Gee
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« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2009, 01:41:44 AM »
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As someone who was mugged in Buenos Aires in 2007 just prior to Michael's second Antarctic trip can I strongly suggest that even if you are teamed up with a buddy (I was , and he got his leg broken!), avoid going to known trouble spots carrying anything of value, especially if it is visible.  Fortunately, my 5D came off better than I did.  The bruises healed but I had nightmares for weeks!  Afterwards, the manager of our hotel suggested that we should have carried our cameras in old shopping bags or something similar.  It's all very well looking tough and confident but when you are jumped by six blokes bigger than you and who have nothing to lose, resistance is plain stupid.  Losing your camera is better than a knife in your liver!

Remember, if your dead you don't get to see your pictures, no matter how many memory cards you use!

Keep safe,

David
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fototrotter
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« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2009, 01:58:04 AM »
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I've been travelling to quite a few places,...

As a tourist / foreigner, it's easy to attract the attention,.... If you can avoid that unwanted attention, it's a big plus;... Here's some tips:
*Don't wear flashy jewelry, watches or other fancy "bling bling" items
*Don't get yourself made up like you were to be expected to walk a catwalk,... no make up, no fancy hairdo's etc
*Get to the bottom of your armoire and get that 80ies junk out to wear for the very last time.
*Never walk around with lowepro or other big brand camera bags,... It's like having a big lamppost on your camera signaling a few thousand $'s. In stead have a cheap shoulderbag or backpack (which can be secretly locked with a small padlock or so) to carry your gear around.
*Avoid walking around in doddgy areas alone and at night...
*Trust your stomach, if it doesn't feel safe it probably won't be safe.
*Never walk around with an obviously visible map, guide book or other tourist equipment. Study your road before you leave and if you don't have a good sense of direction, don't go where you don't need to be.
*Always walk like you know where you're going, don't hesitate at crossings, if you need to look at the map, enter a shop or café, never on a street.
*Watch out for scams... people spilling dog shit on your shoes or ketchup on your t-shirt,... guys trying to sell you whatever great deal or women/children begging for help,... don't let anyone stop you, but just walk on like nothing happened, at all times: avoid taking help from a quick overly friendly stranger
*Remind yourself that anything you take with you will be stolen,... think of taking your old walkman or discman in stead of your brand new ipod.
*Learn the local language or at least basics, so you can understand what is going on around you, enable yourself to read signposts and book hotelrooms and train tickets.
* Inform yourself with the local customs / habbits, do's and don'ts of the area/country you're visiting.
*Always have a small amount of money at hand, to buy yourself a drink or sigarettes when you need to,...
*Never carry large quantities of money in one place / pouch if not needed,... Break them up, in your suitcase, in your socks, in your left pocket, your right pocket, in the hotel.
*Never keep your passport, visa, credit cards, bank cards and other paperwork / valuables in one pocket / pouch. If they steal your passport you at least have a credit card, if they steal your credit card you at least have a passport.
*Never show your passport in large, overcrowded places, carry copies and claim your original passport is in an airport or a bank safe
*Carry several (sets of) copies, one in your backpack, one in your suitcase, one on you,... keep the originals well hidden
*Before leaving scan all your paperwork (passport, visa, tickets,...) and e-mail them to yourself on a hotmail, g-mail or other account, makes them available in case of need.

Common sense goes a long way too,...
« Last Edit: September 23, 2009, 02:16:16 AM by fototrotter » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2009, 07:23:24 AM »
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There are many strategies...

I have sometimes carried my camera in one of those free plastic supermarket bags. As opaque as possible so that it's hard to see that there's a camera inside. Remove, shoot, back in the bag. (Worked fine in Kyrgyzstan and Khazakstan.)

Make sure your insurance is up-to-date, medical and equipment.

Don't be confrontational. In general (unless you are experienced at fighting and really know what you are doing) don't fight. Give up your gear with a smile. There is no point in putting up resistance unless you have a good chance of winning, or unless you don't mind taking a beating.

Don't look like a tourist. Disguising yourself as a PJ can work pretty well. Festoon yourself with 6 cameras, a fake journo ID card and wear fatigues. aka "hiding in plain sight".

  • Unusual, old or cheap looking equipment is much less attractive to thieves or muggers. A D3 practically screams "take me".
  • How about using a 35mm film camera? Grab something second hand for the trip and flog it when you get back. There is no market for these things, so they are less likely to be stolen. (My favoured approach.)
  • Or use a good P&S that can be easily pocketed.
  • Or use disposable cameras.

Keep your fingers crossed, your eyes open, don't be afraid to scream bloody murder and run like hell.

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ThomasPoeschmann
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« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2009, 09:03:21 AM »
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Quote from: atassy
well i haven't figured out the trick yet of using tape to decrease objects in size. blacking out the logo doesn't make the body substantially softer, but you decrease the chances a little of being hit by the guys who only recognise the brand name.
They will not recognize the brand. They will take the camera, even if it is a 20 year old film camera.

They will only see that you are a person that has money. You are definetly rich. Want to know why? Because YOU have enough money to go where THEY live. THEY do not have enough money to go where YOU live, thats a huge difference.

Quote from: atassy
i've also heard the stories of people using a camera or lens to ward off an attacker. if you go somewhere were you count on your camera gear to defend yourself with i would suggest, however, that you either stay home or get some proper weapon instead. that's just an unrealistic, macho idea.
You did not understand the ironic touch of this part of my posting, did you?
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atassy
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« Reply #15 on: September 23, 2009, 10:18:19 AM »
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Quote from: ThomasPoeschmann
You did not understand the ironic touch of this part of my posting, did you?

you're right, that was lost on me between the lines. sorry!

as for the rest: we don't even know at this stage where marie intends to go. the travel expenses might not be more than a ride on the bus to the other end of town.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2009, 10:22:27 AM by atassy » Logged
Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2009, 10:30:26 AM »
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One other suggestion that I don't think anyone has made yet...

In many countries that are poor enough that random street crime is a serious problem, it's poor enough that you can hire a local guide for not too much.  It helps a great deal to have a knowledgeable local person with you who will be familiar with the local scams and criminal tricks, will know where it is safer to go and where you need to be more careful, and whose presence will discourage criminals that prey on the solitary and/or ignorant-looking.  Just be careful about how you find such a person - hire them through a travel agency or major hotel, not someone who offers on the street.

Lisa
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fototrotter
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« Reply #17 on: September 24, 2009, 12:09:11 AM »
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Quote from: nniko
In many countries that are poor enough...

people (especially in the countryside) will not even have the slighthest idea where you are from. Those are often the genuinely friendliest people you can encounter. Don't just treat them arrogantly as they were thieves, you might need them at some point. And you will probably make their day with a smile and 2 minutes of your time. Keep in mind, their life goes on with or without you being around, no need to shock them.

Quote from: nniko
...that random street crime is a serious problem...

usually only in/around the big cities... They are often to be avoided.



But indeed where is Marie going???
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #18 on: September 24, 2009, 12:12:19 PM »
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Quote
Quote
QUOTE (nniko @ Sep 23 2009, 05:30 PM)
In many countries that are poor enough...


people (especially in the countryside) will not even have the slighthest idea where you are from. Those are often the genuinely friendliest people you can encounter. Don't just treat them arrogantly as they were thieves, you might need them at some point. And you will probably make their day with a smile and 2 minutes of your time. Keep in mind, their life goes on with or without you being around, no need to shock them.


Quote
QUOTE (nniko @ Sep 23 2009, 05:30 PM)
...that random street crime is a serious problem...


usually only in/around the big cities... They are often to be avoided.



But indeed where is Marie going???

I think you misinterpreted my post, or I didn't make myself clear.  I *was* talking about the sort of street crime that happens in large cities with large poor populations, not about the countryside.  I was my impression that there are relatively few countries where camera-snatchings occur commonly in the countryside, so I was assuming it most likely that the original poster was talking about visiting cities.  But you're right, we don't know where she's going; she has left us to guess.

I've traveled around big cities, and traveled around the countryside in various parts of the world, and I only activate my cautious mode of behavior when I'm somewhere where I've verified by research ahead of time that it's needed.  I've had many pleasant experiences with people in various parts of the world, and certainly don't have the sort of general attitudes that you're accusing me of.

Lisa
« Last Edit: September 24, 2009, 04:42:50 PM by nniko » Logged

Andy M
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« Reply #19 on: September 24, 2009, 02:37:36 PM »
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There's some good advice here, and some which I'd personally not choose to follow, but c'est la vie.

I'd offer this advice: if you do suspect you're about to be mugged, or that you've been targeted, attempt to speak to or engage a local even if it's just a little old woman (though, bear in mind that you don't want to put them in danger too). People are much more likely to help if they've had some sort of interaction with you, and even if they're not physically likely to help they may know the best way to make others aware that you're in danger and in need of attention.

If I was choosing to go into a very dangerous area I'd ensure my equipment insurance was as comprehensive as possible, and I'd resign myself to the likelihood that I wouldn't be coming back with the gear.

The best of luck!
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