View Full Version : Sign: Don't leave valuables in car
You are on vacation. You have packed all four cameras and all twelve lenses. You are ready for anything Ma Nature can throw at you. You have flown thousands of miles and rented a car to get here. The time has arrived. You have arrived. You are at the turnoff to The Place. You drive down the gravel road. The scenery is gorgeous all around you. Ahead is the trailhead parking lot. You pull up and park--right under the sign which reads: "This is a high-theft area. Do NOT leave valuables in your vehicle". Your plan is to hike the four miles to The Falls at The Place with the 4x5 kit. There are no pack mules for rent, so the rest of the equipment stays in the car. There are other people in the parking lot. As you prepare for the hike, you worry that a thief could be watching --just waiting. He knows you'll be gone for hours. He knows there are no police for hundreds of miles. He knows cell phones don't work out here. And on, and on...
Well, you get my drift. Is anyone else as paranoid as I am about such situations? Anyone had equipment stolen in such a situation?
If you're really concerned, only bring camera equipment that you can carry with you. You will also be more focused, and get better results that way. I find that I am the most productive with one camera and 2-3 lenses, and sometimes I just take a single lens. On multi day trips, I usually bring two cameras, so I do worry a bit about leaving one in the trunk. However, I've been to many of the places you describe above over the last few years without incident. I'm actually more worried about the equipment I've left behind getting stolen or destroyed in a fire!
I was doing a day hike out at Olympic N.P. in May. At the trail head we met a ranger who was truly upset that a car had been broken into the night before at the trail head (I have never met a N.P. ranger I didn't like). While hiking in we met a couple coming back in from a week in the back country. When we got back to the trailhead they were still cleaning up and discovered it was their car that had been broken into. Amazingly, they took everything but the couple's LF cameras and equipment. Must not have had any idea what it was. the fellow mentioned it was almost $20k worth of gear (I was envious as I'd be lucky if all my photo gear was worth a 1/10 that). They were annoyed to lose a window, but he was more angry at himself for leaving the gear in the car. I thought I had lucked out but got a flat on the 17 mile dirt road out from the trailhead.
I tend to photograph in sketchy industrial neighborhoods so I usually use only equipment I wouldn't kill myself over if I lost.
Before "forgetting" to lock the car door you casually place the wallet with the exposed corner of a five-spot, and nothing else on the dashboard. The Nikon 35mm that looks great but isn't worth repairing is perched on the passenger seat. All other worthless good-lookings are resting on the back seat as you leave the trailhead shortly after entering it. The next shot you take is from your carefully chosen location in the bushes. Only you can decide if it is the local newspaper that gets the shot or it's the local police.
Although I rank thieves just below syphilis, I still recommend using the 4x5 over the more effective yet noisier "45".
Another approach: have everything that you intend to carry in the passenger area long before you reach the trailhead, leaving nothing in sight that even suggests that you have a camera. Hopefully, those at the trailhead will assume that you're carrying everything that you have. I've been led to believe that random trunk break-ins, while not unheard of, are comparatively rare.
Obviously, this approach is much easier if the car has a trunk.
Read the threads. There's many, many stories of camera gear theft, from locked car trunks, apartments, etc, etc.
Gotta protect your gear at all times. thieves can spot rental cars in an instant. They can actually smell your camera gear. When travelling, keep one bag of camera gear only. It stays with you at all times. Have insurance.
I NEVER leave my photo gear in the car, even if it is hidden at the rear : as you say, a thief could be watching and waiting.
As I use to carry my photo gear in a Super-Trekker on a baby-stroller, I can carry everything I need.
A friend of mine had his spotmeter stolen in his bag, when he was focusing his camera under the darkcloth, near a church in the center of a french city. His bag was laid on the ground at about 50cm of the tripod !
I don't consider I am paranoid, I am just careful and wary.
Bob Salomon - HP Marketing
I'll give you a better example.
We drove to Strasbourg, France and my wife wanted to call the kids in the states. We went to the Town Hall and parked in the gated parking lot below the Town Hall. We made a 20 minute phone call to the states. We went directly back to the car and found that the doors wee open, my wife's clothes were strewn under the car. My suitcase and camera case were missing. The camera case had two Rollei 6006 cameras with 40, 50, 80, 150 and 250mm lenses and accessories, two Rollei 3003 cameras with 16, 18, 25, 35, 50, 85 and 200mm lenses, and the original - non-functioning Linhof 612 PC with 65 and 135mm lenses. And about 60 rolls of exposed film and a couple of dozen unexposed rolls.
Also missing were the return plane tickets and my passport.
Nothing was ever recoverd.
Lot's of us do tend to go to remote places during off hours. I was lucky as I had my car window broken in a fairly remote parking lot but nothing missing. Maybe my alarm helped. Since then I've put any equipment left behind in a large locked box. Really an ice chest. It's then chained to the car. Won't even slow down a real thief but may help with the casual one. A friend has a box bolted in his SUV. Also if traveling make sure you have a list of your equipment and serial numbers with you in case something happens. I usually have everything ready to go ahead of time so don't show how much equipment I may have to someone watching me packup. I do find that 20 feet down the trail I seem to stop worrying about theft and go with the flow.
If the authorities cannot make the connection between tourism and the negative effect that theft can make on the local economy by setting up a sting operation or installing concealed cameras with which to monitor the parking lot, I would simply not shoot there unless I was in a rental car with 100% no questions asked insurance and I could carry every piece of my photo gear with me on the trip.
Lastly, we have recommended full replacement value insurance previously and there is simply no alternative as you just never know when someone is watching and waiting for a chance to rip you off. Bottom line, there can be bad people anywhere there are people.
My "security" system, which has worked so far for 15 years of parking all over the place with camera gear inside, frequently for days at a time, is to make my car look like a pig sty. In the back of my car I keep a box filled with trash, dirty old blankets, worn-out socks, newspapers, etc., and whenever I leave something important in the car I take a couple of minutes to spread all that junk around on the seats, dashboard, and of course covering up the camera gear. I frequently throw an old tee-shirt on the top of the car too, or sticking out one of the windows. The idea is that theives are unlikely to break into every car in sight-- they choose which ones look most promising, so one that looks like a hippy trash-heap will almost always get passed over. I usually leave the car unlocked too, to save a broken window. The only "incident" I have ever had was returning to the car once the whole inside smelled like cigarette smoke. Apparently someone got in the car and had a smoke, and then left, without touching a thing.
I do quite a bit of driving around with my equipment. That ranges from the Domke F1X ("I'm a big camera bag, STEAL ME") with Nikon 35mm and Bronica ETRS kits, 35mm's laying on the passenger seat, and three huge tool boxes in the back, to all that plus three crates of cords and tungsten lights, a Speedotron kit, enough light stands for a small Indie film, and the 8x10 in its trunk case (looks like it has to be expensive) and other misc. stuff.
What do I do for security? Well, I'm going for a week long trip to long island next week, and here's how it goes:
A week before the trip, move everything down to the darkroom in one corner, and take an invintory of everything from filters to lenses and cameras. Compare this with my insurance rider. All of my gear is insured under a "Photograhpic Equip." floater, which covers it for theft, damage, or loss anywhere in the US. I go through the list, whatever isn't on it gets appraised and added, and the small misc. items simply get written down and have an estimated total "misc" value added.
In short, cameras are tools. I need them to get the job done. I'm not going to let them sit home (and be of no use) because I'm afraid of having them stolen (or losing/breaking them).
I read somewhere on the net, but can't remember where, about a photographer who leaves a note on his windshield when parked at a trailhead. The note goes something like this:
Joe, I got here a little early, so I'll be out target shooting. I have my high powered scope, so I'll keep an eye out for you. See you in a bit.
Then the photog leaves a few bullets scattered on his seat for effect. He claims it works.
A relative who is a law enforcement officer for the Forest Service passed on another tip to preclude break-ins and theft: Don't leave coolers is plain sight. It seems that some of the younger criminals will go to any lengths to get free beer.
If you must keep camera gear in your vehicle, make it as inaccessable as possible by placing items in the trunk/cargo area surrounded by items of lesser value. Most break-ins are of a smash and grab nature -- the perp usually doesn't want to spend much time around the crime scene.
One possible approach is to disguise the camera cases and make them unappealing to would be thieves.
I know someone who stencils "Contaminated Urine Samples" in red on his cases. So far he hasn't had anything stolen. He has been questioned when carrying the case onto airplanes, though.
I carry Readyload film in the tall .50 caliber ammo cans, painted white. A while back, someone peeked in the back of my car and commented that no one would ever break into a car with three tall cans full of ammo in the back, for fear that the crazed gun nut might be just around the corner and headed back. I didn't mention the three cans were full of film.
Ouch! Some painful stories above! Bob, you have my sympathy. I am concerned too when I travel to places where there is a high risk. Renting a car is the worst scenario. Otherwise, I have doubled my mini van's windows with sun shield so that it is almost impossible to see what is in there. It is also a good protection against heat. I never unpack my gear before a hike when there are suspect people around, I avoid aluminum cases and have my gear in gray Tenba bags, they look like hiking rucksacks. I also leave my sleeping bag, nat and some blankets to "cover" the photo gear and protect them from sight and from sunlight. The specific insurances for camera equipment are very expensive if you want to have it insured all year round. What I did was have an extension to my home insurance as well as to my car's insurance to cover a certain amount of stolen equipment, but barely half of the total value of the gear I have with me. For the rest, I tie and I send a little prayer to heaven when my mind is not at rest!
"My "security" system, which has worked so far for 15 years of parking all over the place with camera gear inside, frequently for days at a time, is to make my car look like a pig sty. In the back of my car I keep a box filled with trash, dirty old blankets, worn-out socks, newspapers, etc.,"
Chris - you keep that stuff in it's own special box? I guess I have a special box for it all too - it's called a Toyota Corolla.....
"A week before the trip, move everything down to the darkroom in one corner, and take an invintory of everything from filters to lenses and cameras. Compare this with my insurance rider. All of my gear is insured under a "Photograhpic Equip." floater, which covers it for theft, damage, or loss anywhere in the US. I go through the list, whatever isn't on it gets appraised and added, and the small misc. items simply get written down and have an estimated total "misc" value added.
In short, cameras are tools. I need them to get the job done. I'm not going to let them sit home (and be of no use) because I'm afraid of having them stolen (or losing/breaking them)."
Jason, is that a rider/floater on your home insurance or business insurance?
I've found trying to get that kind of coverage for business/professional use is basically exhorbitantly expensive (thought the insurance market seems a lot more competitive in the US than Canada)
Window signs I'd like to see:
1. "When opening door, be prepared to meet Hugger, the watch-python."
2. "Caution: Sniper on duty." (multiple NRA stickers on the car, and loose .50 cal rounds on the seat would help)
3. "Smile. The first picture of you transmitted to police via satellite phone was far too serious."
When i first read those signs I too wondered who was watching and waiting to steal me blind. After 25 years+ of parking at trailheads i have seen one auto broke into: some hapless bowhunter left his spare bow in the rack of his pickup and somebidy smashed the window to get to it and bear in mind that this was aparking area just off the main hwy. That said I think you'll find the further you are from a main road the safer you will be. Its just too much trouble to spend an hour driving down a back road to MAYBE? score. The pickings in NP parking lots closer to the road are much better and more sellable. Those who comit crimes at the remote trailheads are often local young folks with nothing better to do. I would be much more worried about leaving somthing in my car in downtown Honolulu( my F3 was ripped off) than a trailhead. Check you car insurance, my homeowners actually covered me while in Hawaii!!
tim--I don't know what kind of insurance jason has, but I've had a policy for a long time through the NPPA. Over the years, just to save money & to be realistic about it, I've pared it down to my "working" gear. I basically cover the gear that I take out for freelance work. The policy runs to about 15,000 dollars minimum in gear for a flat rate, then there's rate on top of this per 1000 or something like that. Over the past 15 yrs or so, I've pared my stuff down to keep it within this margin. It covers theft (has to be evidence of theft from a *locked* vehicle, there're 2 policies, a cheaper one for trunk storage, one a bit more for open storage), but it also covers damage from natural events--not conflicts. Covers breakage as well (like if I drop a lens). It will cover the cost of a rental piece of equipment while the other is being repaired etc, and it will cover any gear that I rent as well. It's all replacement value, but the min is about 500 bucks, so there's a point where certain items aren't really worth covering in some ways. I used to cover alot more than I do now, but mostly I do the big ticket items. It costs me about 500+ bucks a year though. I look at it as a business expense, so, like I said--I insure the work cameras. the work cameras would put a hurt on me if they got ripped off, I would really regret a loss of one of my rolleis or my leica, but when I look back at what has made me money in the past--it's been nikons, mamiyas and a cambo.
Thanks for the warning.
My car was just broken into tonight while I was at work.
I had just taken some test photos of my kids at a park. I used my Century Graphic, 80mm Xenotar, and 47mm Super Angulon on a tiltall monopod.
When I got to work I brought my camera bag inside. Lucky me my gear is safe and sound. They didnt bother to steal my monopod, or my sandals (which are like 10 years old and my wife makes me leave them outside cause they smell so bad).
I still have to pay like $400 to get the windows fixed.
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