A Czech camera crew was robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco on Sunday evening. They were filming outside a bookstore when three masked men approached. The men were pointing guns at the crew, demanding their gear. They handed it over, and the thieves fled the scene.
Czech TV journalist Bohumil Vostal was filming in front of San Francisco’s iconic City Lights bookstore. He and his crew were in the city covering this week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. “They were heading at my camera man, aiming a gun at his stomach, and one at my head,” Vostal recalls the scary incident, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Thankfully, no one got shot or hurt.
The three armed men stole more than $18,000 worth of gear from Vostal and his crew. But they took something else important: precious footage from a whole day of wandering the city. “I’m one of those many people who used to read Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road,'” Vostal told the SF Chronicle, “and I was so much looking forward to [visiting] your city.”
Vostal called 911 and the police officers arrived within a minute. Sadly, it was already too late: the robbers had already fled in a dark sedan. A spokesperson for Mayor London Breed said the city is “working to support the Czech journalists.” The Police Department’s Robbery Unit is investigating the robbery.
San Francisco camera thefts
San Francisco has always been a city with a certain edge, but in recent years, that edge has become sharper. The city’s crime rate has been on the rise. Lately, both foreign and local photographers and filmmakers have become the targets of criminals. We’ve seen so many cases of camera theft that I don’t even know where to start.
There have been camera store thefts, as well as individual attacks. Many robberies were at gunpoint, and sadly, some photographers even got hurt. Thieves have stolen gear from cars in a series of smash-and-grabs. One guy even followed a photographer home and robbed them at gunpoint in front of his own house! And to add a level of irony and bizarreness to everything, one reporter was robbed while filming a piece on San Francisco robberies.
How to stay safe
It is essential for both locals and visitors to be aware of their surroundings and take precautions to avoid becoming victims of crime. Here are some tips that will make you safer.
- Choose your locations carefully: There seem to be some places in San Francisco where camera thefts occur more frequently. Jefferson Graham suggests the places you should avoid but also suggests locations you can bring your camera and not get it stolen. Sadly, he was a robbery victim in San Francisco himself.
- Be aware of your surroundings: I know it’s difficult when you’re invested in getting the shot. However, this is important, especially in areas that are known for high crime rates. Pay attention to people and their behavior, and avoid walking alone in unfamiliar areas, especially at night.
- Use anti-theft gadgets: There are some gadgets that can help you to track your gear in case it gets stolen. There are trackers like AirTag or Chipolo, or special stickers you can use.
- Don’t carry too much gear: If you can, only take the gear you need for the job and leave the rest at home or in a safe place nearby (I wouldn’t suggest a car, though). If you have to carry a lot of gear, consider using a backpack designed to protect it from theft.
- Lock up your gear when you’re not using it: If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure to lock up your gear in the safe or in a locked room. If you’re not staying in a hotel, consider renting a storage locker instead of leaving it in your car.
- Keep your gear close to you: Related to the previous points, don’t leave your camera or other gear unattended. If you have to set it down, make sure you can keep an eye on it.
- Get insurance: Even if your gear gets stolen, this will cover you financially. You may not get your shots back, but you can at least buy new gear.