When traveling overseas and you visit locations know as “tourist hot spots” you often hear sometimes about “cameras snatches,” or “cut and run” camera thefts. If you wanted to know more about the subject -- along with what you can do to protect your camera gear from these types of thefts – this should give you a basic understanding of the subject.
While traveling many people take cameras – obvious. However, in some of the most beautiful places in the world we travel to visit these locations, they are frequently found on fringe areas of cities (areas that are depressed, lower socioeconomic) and many times attract a criminal element that prey on tourists. What many photographers forget to consider is that many of these types of theft occur right in our own cities – the thefts are just done a little differently. Either way, we need to understand the vulnerability of camera gear in these situations – and more importantly, how to protect it from these types of thefts.
Camera Snatchers and Cut and Run Thefts
Many travelers are aware that crowded tourists destinations are popular with pickpockets and other related thieves. However, when it comes to camera snatches and cut and run thefts, we start to not know much about how they operate.
Typically, these Camera Snatchers are thieves who lurk in crowed areas, looking for people to set cameras, and or camera bags down on the ground, park bench, or street café chair next to themselves. These thieves will work by themselves, or in groups. Typically when operating in groups, the thieves will be young teens – ranging from 10 to 23 years of age. Many travelers relate these groups to so called “Gypsy Thieves” “Gypsy Children” or the “Roma” (short for people who come from Romania). Don’t kid yourselves, any group from any walk of life, no mater what color of skin, or what country they are from, for that matter, can have a thieving heart.
When these groups operate, they look for the magical moment when you set your camera down because you are arranging something, taking a break, or simply having lunch and place your camera on the empty seat next to you. At that magical moment (as thieves call it), one of the thieves will distract you -- getting you to turn your attention away from your camera. As you and your travel mate are engaged in a conversation regarding how to find the subway, asking for directions, or some other distracting conversation, the other thief simply walks away with your camera or bag. By the time the first thief leaves, you are not even aware that your camera is gone. By the time you do, the camera is in the wind, hence the term camera snatchers.
These thefts can occur anywhere. I recall a case that I investigated in which a professional photographer was shooting a band in a night club. While she was shooting at the end of the event, she had set her camera bag down on a chair next to her while she was trying to get some final shots. The bag carried several of her camera lenses and memory cards containing over 300 photos she had shot during the event. While she was preoccupied with the shoot, someone simply lifted the bag and walked away with over $4,000 worth of camera gear, but it was not the value of the camera, it was the value of the photos shot during the entire evening. They were lost, never to be seen again.
Other variations of this crime occur from other simple forms of distraction, to out right physical thefts. One that comes to mind is a case where some teenager in Rome targeted a traveler who was walking down the street with their camera slung over their shoulder. The teen (probably a 16-year old) ran up behind the traveler, yanked the camera strap off their shoulder and fled. It’s pretty hard to chase a 16-year old at night in a foreign city.
The end of this story has some samples of camera security items that can be added as a security layer to prevent these types of thefts.
Cut and Run thefts are a similar variation
Cut and Run thefts usually occur on crowded subway or train platforms, on buses, or other highly pedestrian condensed locations where people are crowded up against each other at all angles. Like in the previous demonstration, several thieves may surround you, all pretending to be other train travelers; however, they do not acknowledge that they know each other. As you begin to walk on or off a train in a sea of people, you become jostled by several of your fellow passengers – a natural occurrence. At that “magical moment” one of people behind you is a thief and cuts the strap of your camera. The thief supports the camera from behind so you do not feel it falling and lets your forward motion allow the camera to remain in his hands. This sounds tricky; however it is a craft that professional thieves have honed their skill over the years.
However, many times you end up losing your expensive camera. Many times you begin your traveling with a very happy note, but it all ends up in a rather unpleasant one. Your traveling/vacation gets loused up by the theft of you camera!
Several times you fall upon camera gear theft accounts in newspapers. The professional photographers today are more mobile than ever before. They usually travel taking their complete photography paraphernalia with them. Many times these professionals leave their camera gear in their vehicles, or in the trunk of their car when they are out to have lunch, or sightseeing. However they, the become stupefied when they come back and find their vehicles/cars broken into and their camera gear stolen.
Another instance I investigated involved a case where a tourist was eating at a beach café on the boardwalk. The victim, who had a his high-end digital camera with 4 gig memory card full of his family’s photographs, reported that he just set his camera on the chair next to him. Suddenly his attention was distracted by some of the boardwalks local flavor who were was juggling bowling balls. As the victim turned back, his camera, with all the photos of their tip were history – never to be seen again.
Camera Strap Security Solutions
We have all heard of travelers falling victim to the unpleasant happenings of camera thefts that completely spoil vacations. These thefts hurt you financially as well as emotionally --let's not even take into account photographers who are emotionally attached to their gear that has been with them for years.
It is obvious that one of the first things we should consider is using a reliable camera strap, and to keep your camera with you whenever possible. But is this really practical? I don’t think so. We will always come across a situation where you will have to set your gear down, or carry it in crowded locations. That’s where you need to be aware of the various camera security straps on the market that provide extra layers of protection.
Camera security straps look and feel like regular camera straps. What makes them different from the rest is that the straps have steel cables woven into the straps themselves.
Additionally, security camera straps have security clips so if you set a camera down for a moment, you can use the built-in security carabineer to secure it to a chair or other stationary device.
Camera security straps come in a number of styles and sizes. The most secure camera security straps recently released on the market include the folowing, which are a sample of just a few.
The CarrySafe 100 is a security camera neck strap that combines comfort and two anti-theft security features to help you provide security for your camera, camcorder, or binoculars from “cut and run” thefts. The CarrySafe 100 is soft cushioned strap with a breathable neck pad. The primary security feature of the CarrySafe 100 is the two slash-proof, high tensile stainless steel wires running through the length of the strap. This protects the strap from being cut by thieves who specialize in “slash and run" thefts. The steel wires are 1.5 mm 7x7 high-tensile stainless steel wire (seven strands and each strand comprises of seven wires) and are woven between the top and bottom layers of the strap's outer material. The steel wire is strong, but flexible enough so that they are not detectable when worn.
The CarrySafe 100 security camera strap is fully adjustable and can be expanded to 60 inches in length. The strap material is made from a combination of durable black nylon which is soft to the touch. The snatch-proof mechanism allows the strap to be clipped around secure fixtures. The strap has universal webbing connectors that fit most cameras and binoculars. The user friendly disconnects allow the strap to be quickly clipped to camera case without removing the webbing from the camera.
The CarrySafe 200 is longer and more heavy-duty version of the CarrySafe 100. The CarrySafe 200 is a heavy duty security camera neck strap that combines comfort and two anti-theft security features to help you provide security for your camera, camcorder, or binoculars from “cut and run” thefts.
The PacSafe CarrySafe 300 is the only heavy duty anti-theft shoulder strap on the market today. It is used to replace the carry strap on your existing camera, computer, or other portable carry bag. The strap converts your existing camera bag’s or laptop bag’s carry strap into a high security, slash-proof strap. This security strap allows you to lock shut your bag's zippers and secure the entire bag to a stationary fixture. There is no other strap on the market today that can provide the security features parallel to the CarrySafe 300.
The PacSafe CarrySafe 300 is a security replacement strap that works very well with the bags with detachable shoulder or carry straps. The CarrySafe 300's strap has a built-in 3 dial metal combination lock that is permanently attached to the strap with a steel "D" ring. The strap lock uses the carabineer type locking device that facilitates to pass the strap around or through a secure item such as a chair, pole, car seat track, and some fixtures in a trunk. The strap will not allow anybody to pick up your bag easily without unlocking the lock. You can use the CarrySafe 300 strap for your camera gear bags or other luggage bags in your cars/vehicles and in your hotel rooms as well.
Another good thing about the CarrySafe 300 is that it doesn't allow anyone to simply unzip and remove the contents of your bag. It is the only replacement shoulder strap that has the patented "zipper security lock" feature.
The CarrySafe 300 has steel wire cables woven into each side of the CarrySafe 300's straps. The cables are woven into the entire length of the straps, on both sides. These steel wires provide your bags greater security from "cut and run" thefts. Additionally, these straps provide extra strength and support for the items being carried in the bag.
The slash proof adjustable snatch-proof CarrySafe 300 shoulder strap with tamperproof lockable, integrated high-tensile wire, with built-in combination lock, anchors your attached gear to a secure fixture and locks it there. The shoulder strap is the best to provide security for your camera gear, or bag from “cut and run” thefts. The strap is fabricated from nylon, high-tensile stainless steel wire.
Other Camera Security Devices
You will find a whole new line of other unique camera security products on the markets today. These products range from other versions of camera security straps, to camera security backpacks, duffel bags, to wire mesh covers that protect your camera from being removed from your bag if left unattended in your office, hotel, or vehicle.
A final, very important thought to end with is that any security device should always be considered as a layer of security. These products are designed to stop the casual thief – hopefully enough to frustrate them so they will move on to someone else. At least now we have other options available to help keep expensive camera gear and precious memories from falling into someone else’s hands.
To see a range of camera security products, including camera security straps, security bags, and other unique mobile security devices discussed in this article, see the camera security section at www.corporatetravelsafety.com.
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