Photography Equipment May be Hazardous to your Life, by Andrew Bland

photo credit (cropped): Benjamin Sander Bergum

I’m reposting, with permission, from Andrew Bland from his Facebook page:

Robbery in Golden Gate Park: On Thursday evening, I was witness to and nearly a victim of an aggressive robbery near the bison paddock on JFK Drive in Golden Gate Park. I was photographing great horned owls. Around 8:10PM, I was packing up equipment and putting it in my car. Another photographer was doing the same further down the road behind me. As this person got in their car, I saw a small white car pull up and abruptly stop right next to it. A masked man jumped out and began smashing in the rear window of the other photographer’s car.

By the time I got my wits about me and managed to get into my car and start the engine – no more than 10 seconds – they had finished robbing the other person and had now pulled up alongside me. The passenger-side door opened and the masked assailant began to step out, ready to smash his way into my car. With only a few seconds to spare, I stepped on the gas and pulled away, fully expecting that they would give up and flee. But they chased me, and pulled up alongside me, either trying to run me off the road or cut me off and stop me. I sped up and got ahead of them.

Probably going 50MPH with the assailants’ car right behind me, we ran through two stop signs and barreled over speed bumps for nearly a mile before they slowed down, made a U-turn, and disappeared out the 30th Ave gate. (Keep in mind, I bike this road nearly every day and am very respectful of more vulnerable road users when in my car. I gave the few cyclists that happened to be out a wide berth as we passed.)

I circled back and by then the cops were there. I gave a statement, along with the other victim and two witnesses. Nobody saw their faces or license plate. They were fast, prepared, and extremely aggressive.

The officer explained that these smash-and-grabs are merely considered property crimes and are NOT considered violent crimes (yes, you read that correctly) so they don’t really pursue them, and if they did hypothetically make an arrest, the judge would just let them go, including repeat offenders. He even said if police were to witness one of these incidents occur, they would NOT chase the culprits. He also informed me that if one were to fight back and injure (or worse) one of these thieves during a robbery, then that person would likely be charged with assault for using violence against a “non-violent” criminal. Unbelievable. So scary and so very frustrating.

So be careful out there. I am finished shooting pictures and video in the park. Way too dangerous, and the police are not going to be there when you need them. And even if they were, they wouldn’t help you anyway. I’m sharing this story as a reminder to others to stay in groups, and always be aware of your surroundings.

All for now.

photo credit (cropped): Alex Azabache

Two years ago I myself witnessed, only 50 feet from where I myself stood photographing, a small white van speed by another photographer, swerving towards her, and grabbing her long-lensed camera in broad daylight in the middle of the day. She struggled and screamed, but they got away with the camera. It was an absolutely stunning event.

There have been several murders here in SF for cameras, and several months ago thieves entered my garage and took an entire metal lockbox, cable-locked to the car, with camera equipment from my car, at the same time smashing up the car. And here’s another recent one: TikTok star robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco

And today, October 23rd from Jennifer (reprinted with permission): After a lovely day of birding most of the day, I decided to walk over to Fort Mason, where I bird frequently.  I am really sad to say I was robbed at gunpoint shortly after I arrived.  It was only 4pm, and I was on the sidewalk in front of the row of homes leading to the Battery, but not even close to the Battery. I did not have my camera out, but I think they saw me take photos a few minutes earlier in front of the Community Garden and followed me. They pushed me to the ground and kicked me to get my camera bag/sling off me, I really held on to my binocular — which is crazy cause they had gun and were really trying to get that too. But people came out of the houses and the guy ran to the getaway car waiting for him.

I know everyone knows this is something we have to look out for while birding – and hope this reminder helps people stay vigilant – I always keep this possibility in mind and look around but he ran at me from behind really quickly and shoved the gun in my face.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jo Thompson
    Oct 24, 2021 @ 12:38:16

    In this society, we need to all be pro active. Thankfully nobody suffered bodily harm. But the loss of expensive equipment and the images stored in the camera body can be devastating. I always recommend to my friends – particularly those who have substantial financial or emotional investment in their cameras/images – buy one of those relatively cheap GPS tracking tags that are sold for pet collars. They are light weight and easy to fasten onto your camera. It might help solve crimes and at least give criminals a record since they could easily escalate their crimes to violence on people.


  2. Gail Clark
    Oct 24, 2021 @ 13:15:43

    Sounds more like a problem with laws than with police. So what’s the alternative? Stay home and let thugs rule the night? I’d be hopping mad, too.


  3. Lisa Febre
    Oct 24, 2021 @ 14:14:42

    Same issue for musicians, especially those with small instruments packed in shoulder bags. I was advised to always wear them in a backpack and use the chest/waist straps to secure them to my body. But quite frankly, this is all so scary and when you lose your beloved instrument (in this case camera) the emotional effects are long lasting and devastating. To know there’s no real help out there is frustrating and infuriating. Does sound like policy and laws need to change for precious and expensive personal property theft like this. Stay safe out there everyone. It’s a mad mad world.


  4. SF Forest Alliance
    Oct 24, 2021 @ 23:23:00

    I think something needs to be done at the fencing end. Cameras are too easy to resell. If they weren’t, thefts would drop, as happened with cellphones. Camera makers should be proactive about this, as should the governments.


    • yipps:janetkessler
      Oct 24, 2021 @ 23:29:17

      This is a really excellent idea! Possibly requiring a serial number with proof of purchase? Then again, won’t there always be a black market? There must be a way, since the issue was solved for cell phones. Thank you! I’ll pass this on. :))

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