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|| News Item: Posted 2007-06-28

Leading Off: To Stop A Thief?
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Pelican 1650 case locked and chained in the back of an SUV. Also note the cargo cover to keep items out of sight.
There is no worse feeling than getting ripped off.

Whether it's watching a bad movie or a getting a bad meal or buying something that isn't what was advertised.

But the worst feeling has to be when someone invades your space and rips off your property. What does it say about our society when there are so many miscreants (aka: thieves) out there think it's just fine to take something that doesn't belong to them?

In the past several months, I've had almost a dozen friends and colleagues that have had equipment stolen …out of their office, at a stadium and worst of all, out of their car.

Obviously there is no way to prevent the "professional criminal" from taking what they want. The "pro" can be in and out of your car in seconds, no matter what preventative measures you take

But there are a few things that we can do to discourage the "casual thief" from taking a lens, a laptop or a camera.

Well if we know it, then why don't we practice it ALL the time? We get careless. We're in a hurry. And worse yet, we just forget.

There are a few pretty simple things to keep the casual thief from taking something of yours ... the first being: Remember to do them!

Develop a routine to keep your equipment safe. Make it simple at first and then add a thing or two along the way.

For instance: Leaving equipment or bags exposed so a would-be thief can see it from the street. Don't leave gear exposed on the seat of your car. Make it your first habit to put your bags and cases OUT OF SIGHT. Whether that's in the trunk or hidden under some common items everyone has in their backseat (stacks of newspapers, a Thomas Guide, a spare jacket, whatever) or getting a nice retractable cover for your SUV's cargo area. The primary mission here: Out of sight, means out of sight of a thief.

I know it's a pain, but taking your camera bag or roller with you when you drop by Chili's for a quick meal on the way home from a game is by far the safest bet. If the possibility of getting your gear ripped off isn't motivation enough to take your gear with you, maybe thinking about the SCREAMING your boss does when you report it stolen is.

And lastly, the most common reason why gear is stolen out of a car: YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER TO LOCK ALL THE DOORS!

A funny story: A friend recently told me that he had a small pouch on the front passenger seat of his car when he stopped at a self-serve gas station to fill up. His habit was not only to fill his SUV's gas tank, but to also fill his gas tank as well ---the mini-mart sold Nathan's hot dogs. You got it … while he was in getting a 'dog, someone was getting his speedlite and powerpack because he neglected to lock the doors!

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

The Pelican 1650 case is large enough to hold a roller or backpack with room to spare.
This goes hand-in-hand with the above suggestions. I know the following statement goes counter to what we're suppose to think and it's not P.C. but …consider EVERYONE around you a potential thief.

When you get to an arena what do you do right after park your car? Get out, pop the trunk and sort through your bags looking for the gear you'll need for the shoot? Yep, that's what I usually do. Many times, especially in public and event parking lots, thieves are waiting and watching…looking for what people have in their trunks.

So if you think ahead, before you leave for the assignment, take out the gear you know you're going to need in advance so you don't have to expose the rest of it to a potential thief.

A story about a paranoid friend: I have another photographer friend whose car has been broken into a several times in the past couple of years. Now if he forgets to put his bag next to him in the car before arriving at an assignment, he'll park, remove the gear from the trunk, get back in the car and drive around and park somewhere else. This prevents a "spotter" from seeing what he has in his trunk.

Here is another inconvenience, but could prevent you from getting something stolen: Consider disabling the inside trunk release. I had a friend recently do the what she thought was the smart thing while covering a music festival: She left the equipment she did not need for a shoot sitting unseen in the trunk of her car. However thieves broke into her car and had easy access to what she thought was her hidden gear … via the little switch by the driver's side door that opened the trunk. (Note: Some cars have a "valet mode" which temporarily disables the inside trunk release with a simple turn of a key.)

Come on admit it, we all leave gear laying around at arenas and stadiums. Whether it's on the baseline of an basketball game, the end zones of a football game or in the photo workrooms, we all leave gear out from time to time. Some more than others.

It seems after every big-time event in the last few years there is a post on the message board about some poor soul that is missing gear. A 400mm out of the Rose Bowl workroom, laptops stolen during a baseball playoff game or a pouch with compact flash cards taken out of the back pocket of a camping chair used on the baseline of a basketball game.

We all love to schmooze and I guess that's part of being a photographer covering a sports event. We want to chat, go stand in the media buffet line or simply hit the can before the opening tipoff. Having someone, an assistant, colleague or fellow photographer take turns standing guard over the gear laying out at an event is the safest thing to do and I've volunteered many times to do this.

Like many of my suggestions, this is a pain. It's inconvenient and as one of my colleges at USA TODAY would say: "It's cutting into my schmooze time!" If you can't be bothered to watch the gear or have someone else do it … then see above and prevent your boss from potentially screaming at you and just take your gear with you.

(I don't know about you, but I'd rather ask a friend to watch my gear than walk into a Dodger Stadium men's room with a 400mm lens hangin' off my shoulder.)

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

A Pacsafe can secure a camera bag, laptop case or small backpack.
Of course you can take the approach that one unnamed major news service does when it wants to solve a problem: Throw a bunch of money at it.

There are a few things a photographer can buy … some inexpensive, some not so … to secure their equipment. Here is a list of a few suggestions:
• A Pelican Case is a great way to secure your equipment in your car's trunk or back of an SUV. I have a Pelican 1650 case (interior dimensions: 28.50" x 17.37" x 10.50") chained in the cargo area of my SUV and it's large enough that even my Think Tank roller or backpack will fit into it.

• A Pacsafe is another great way to secure a camera bag, backpack or roller in your vehicle. This is a really versatile way to lock up your gear in the back seat or trunk and then if you need a way to secure gear at an arena or stadium, take the Pacsafe with you. I always have a Pacsafe with me when I'm on the road so I can secure gear in a hotel room or the trunk of a rental car.

• If you're handy, go to a hardware store and buy a "u bolt" or two to secure to the trunk lid and the frame of the car. This will give you a place to thread a chain with a padlock to limit how far the trunk will open.

(Note: I don't know about you, but I hate key padlocks. I don't want to chance losing or forgetting the key to a padlock that is securing my gear. So I always dump those crappy little key locks that come with some equipment cases and bags and I replace them with decent quality combination locks. Also if you use my Pelican Case idea in the trunk or cargo area of your vehicle, use the padlock upside down … it's easier to get at to dial in the combination.)

• Have the rear windows of your vehicle tinted dark to make it difficult for the "casual passerby" (aka potential thief) to see what's inside. If you have an SUV, most have an optional retractable cover that will hide what's in the cargo area. I had a retractable cover installed in my Honda SUV recently and it was about $160. (A very cheap alternative is use large collapsible window shades as a cargo area cover.)

• And lastly, you can spend lots of $$$ and have a state-of-the-art (obnoxious) "anti-theft system" installed. The sky's the limit on the amount of money you can spend on an alarm system ---from the basic horn-blaring-when-a-door-or-window-is-disturbed to satellite tracking, paging systems --- and there is some comfort in knowing you have it, but most of people that have had gear taken from their vehicle said they had alarms!

Most of you veteran shooters by now have moved on to some other story in this issue, but hopefully some students or other newbies have learned a thing or two.

But with so much gear "walking away" just a little common sense, an inconvenience or two and maybe spending a couple of bucks will keep your boss from yelling at you because you had to tell him you got RIPPED OFF.

* * *

Sports Shooter #102 features a behind the scenes look at coverage of politics in Iowa as we head toward the Presidential elections next year. Eric Thayer picked up and moved from New York to cover President candidates as they try to woe voters in the upcoming Iowa caucuses.

Kim Komenich contributes a thought provoking and insightful look at photojournalism --- where it's been and where it's headed. This is must reading for all of us.

Todd Korol writes a hands-on report on the Leica M8 in our semi-regular equipment feature, "Photographer's Toy Box" and we have regular columns from Paul Myers and Nick Layman.

Lastly … I announce some details on the upcoming Sports Shooter Academy Boot Camp.

What I'm reading and listening to: On my nightstand I have James Lee Burke's new Dave Robicheaux novel "The Tim Roof Blow Down", Michael Connelly's "Chasing The Dime" and Sally Jenkins' wonderful book on the untold story of Carlisle Indian School "The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, a People, a Nation". And on iTunes I have "Instant Karma: The Campaign To Save Darfur" (various artist) on heavy rotation.

I hope you enjoy and are inspired by Sports Shooter issue #102.

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Rod Mar, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Joe Gosen, Reed Hoffmann, Paul Myers, Darren Carroll and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Nick Layman, Todd Korol, Eric Thayer and Kim Komenich.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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