911- What’s Your Emergency?

(c) Kirk Francis

Well it happened to me.  While I was busy working on a job that was going to pay $250, someone was busy breaking into my car and helping themselves to over $2500 worth of equipment.  Talk about feeling violated.  I always thought crime was something everyone else experienced but never me.  The last thing I was thinking that day was a car break-in, leaving me without much of my photography equipment and laptop.   My car was even locked when I returned after I completed the job.  What’s worse, since there was no sign of a burglary, I had no idea until two days later. This caused a delay in notifying authorities of the crime.

What did I do wrong?  I let my guard down.  I was getting my gear to go into the location and I decided to just grab my camera and a couple of lenses out of my backpack and left the rest in the car.  I did this out in the open – for all to see!  I should have looked around before taking the equipment out of the bag and in reality I should have taken everything of value inside with me including the laptop.

Here are some Car Break-in prevention tips I found on the web.

From the Hartford, Connecticut Police Car Break-in Prevention Tips

  • Leave valuable items attractive to thieves at home, especially if you will not be using them.
  • NEVER leave ANYTHING visible inside your vehicle.  Keep your car clean and tidy without any junk laying about.  Your worthless junk may be all a thief needs to check out further if you have something in your car or trunk.
  • If you have to leave something in your car, put it in your trunk and do this BEFORE you arrive at your destination.  Putting items in your trunk while at your parking spot can tip off a thief that you have good items to steal.
  • Thieves take things you might think are worthless, smashing your car windows while doing so.  Things like sunglasses, loose change, and empty bags that may not appear to be empty to a thief.  To some, your spare change is a fortune.  A thief WILL break your car window to seal your 83 cents!  Remember, they do not have to pay the cost of the repair, they are going to get their hands on stuff that will be more than they had 30 seconds prior to breaking your window.
  • If you use a GPS unit, always wipe the suction cup ring off on your windshield, its a dead give-away to a thief that a GPS is in the car and even if you take it with you, a thief will smash your window to find out, it costs him nothing.  Also take care of the charging cord and put it out of site.
  • Park in a spot that has a lot of foot traffic and is well lit.  Avoid parking on isolated side streets.
  • Park in attended lots.
  • Roll your car windows up all the way and lock your doors.  Engage your car alarm but do not depend on it to deter a thief very much.  A car thief can break in and get out of your car in about 30 seconds, too short for the alarm to scare away most of them.

What do you do if you see a car break-in in progress:

  • Call 911 and tell the police
  • When talking to 911, try to give as much as possible of the following:
  • LOCATION: such as an address or block number, or specific location in a parking lot
  • DESCRIPTION OF THE THIEF: provide as much as you can, such as sex, race, age, height, weight, hair color and length, color and length of facial hair, colors and style of clothing, and identifying marks such as tattoos.
  • DIRECTION: give the direction of travel if the thief flees. If the thief flees on a bicycle, describe the color and type of bike.

From the Seattle, Washington Police Car Break-in Prevention Tips

  • When you exit or enter your parked vehicle, stop and take a look around the area.
  • Take all valuables with you when you park, and make sure all items, regardless of value, are not visible.
  • This may seem basic – before leaving your parked car, always remove the keys, roll up the windows and lock the car.

From the University of Oklahoma Police Car Break-in Prevention Tips

  • Once home, unload your valuables immediately. Do not store valuables in your car any longer than necessary, and certainly never overnight.

There are plenty of other sites with good tips, those were the first three I found and are worth a look to get your guard up on some really simple things you can do to prevent a car burglary.

The next thing I would make sure that is not on any list is to have an inventory of your photography and computer equipment,  with manufacturer name, model number, serial number, purchase price and current value.  This was exactly what the police wanted to know when they showed up to take my report of my stolen equipment.

After you have your list you may want to consider insurance.  Don’t think that it is covered by your auto or homeowners policy, KNOW IT!  I found out too late that my equipment was NOT covered.

After Beate heard that I was burglarized she offered the following list of sources of insurance for photographers:

Hill & Usher Package Choice
Hill & Usher is proud to announce our national directmail and telephone campaign promoting “Low Cost Photo Insurance.” Our marketing and branding model historically emphasized comprehensive coverage, responsive service, and financially strong insurance providers. Today, we are a large insurer of photographers. We operate on a scale that is far more efficient than the “casual” commercial photo or video insurer. Low Cost is an appropriate message today, because our size and industry expertise reduces both direct and indirect costs for our customers.

Insurance through Membership with NPPA (National Press Photographers Assocation)
As a NPPA member you can get insurance through their program. You will find the information on their website.

Tom C. Pickard
Geared toward creative professionals. (800) 726-3701. Tom C. Pickard & Co. offers a variety of insurance packages serving the needs of Advertising Photographers, Production Companies, Photography Studios, Individual and Group Health Insurance Plans, Personal Auto, Homeowners, Commercial and Life Insurance policies.

Another option I found was to join PPA – Professional Photographers of America and opt-in to get $15,000 of coverage with your membership.

As with any insurance, be certain to look at the conditions, special considerations, deductibles, what it will pay for, exclusions and fine print before you decide to purchase the coverage.

If you are reading this, it will act as a reminder to inventory and keep track of your equipment.  Even if you think your equipment is insured, be certain to check your coverage(s) to know it is insured and not depend on what anyone “tells” you your coverage is.  Hopefully you are able to put these car break-in prevention tips to work and avoid experiencing a car break-in of your own.


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