Prevent Video Equipment Theft

Ripped Off and Recovery

It’s yours and it’s gone…How to keep your equipment safe or get it back if it’s ripped off.

You are starting to work more jobs that require you to drive or fly to locations away from home, maybe in cities, or maybe in rural areas where you stick out like a diamond on a pile of coal. Since getting mobile means putting your gear at risk, here are five tips to keep your stuff…your stuff.

1. Avoid High-risk Situations
You often will know ahead of time that a particular part of town has a higher crime rate. If your shoot takes you here, or somewhere unknown, consider having a friend drop you off rather than leaving some of your gear in the car. Also, using common sense goes a long way. If it’s dark and a “bad” part of town, have at least one other person join you (preferably your buddy who has done stand-in work for Stallone or at least Joe Pesci).


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2. Go Grunge
In some cases, you have a choice between looking professional and filling out a police theft report. In fact, it can come down to just that: the cases. If you’ve spent a bundle on your gear, you rightly want to protect it, but getting top-of-the line flashy armored cases may act like a flashing blue Ware-Mart light the day after Thanksgiving. Try using beat-up cases…even battered suitcases lined with J-90 foam to stash your stuff. If you need to leave your gear in the car during hot or cold weather, consider even using an ultra-cheap foam ice chest.

3. Lock, Label, and Lash
If you can’t do the grunge thing and need to leave your precious gear in an unattended vehicle, you can make it as difficult as possible for a smash-and-grabber to get away. First, have each piece of equipment clearly labeled or better yet, inscribed, with an identifying number. Next, make sure your cases are locked. Finally, lash all the cases through their handles with a light to medium-duty metal cable also secured with a lock. This will all but prevent an opportunistic thief from getting away with anything, except a hernia and a lot of frustration.

4. Prepare for the Worst
Do you have the serial numbers of your camcorder, tripod, lights, and related equipment? Are they written down? And can you find them? Without these as minimum proof of ownership, you’ll likely have problems proving that pile of technology in the police evidence room is yours. There will be few questions asked if you have each piece of equipment inscribed with an engraving pen with an identifying number associated with each piece of equipment. In these days of identity theft, don’t make your loss worse by using your social security number or driver’s license. It’s also a good idea to have photos of each piece of equipment with a close-up of the identifying number. Have these stills printed through a commercial printer that codes the back with a date. Of course, you can shoot all your stuff with a camcorder (obviously, not the one you’re trying to document) with the time/day burned into the shot. Having receipts and purchase costs is also a plus. And finally, make sure you are adequately insured. Depending on your status as a hobbyist or professional and the amount that you need to insure, your existing homeowner’s policy may be enough, but don’t count on it! You may need a rider, and quite possibly a separate policy.

5. It’s Gone, Now What?
So you’ve done most everything right; unfortunately, that’s not always enough. What do you do now? Call the local police. If the theft happened in downtown Los Angeles, don’t wait to get home to San Diego to make the call. Once you have filled out and received a copy of the theft report, call your insurance company. Have as much information as possible ready for this call, such as detailed list of what was taken, the identification numbers, and incident particulars. You’ll be putting all of this in writing and filling out forms soon, but it’s best to be prepared for this first contact. But, if you’re up to it, there’s one more thing you can do other than sitting and waiting for the call that your gear has been recovered. Distribute a flyer with printed photos listing the gear and ID numbers to area pawnshops. It’s no guarantee, but it will increase your odds.

Brian Peterson is Videomaker’s Editor in Chief.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.