Equipment and theft

Ah, it's the same old dilemma for those carrying any expensive equipment; numerous or not. I've been thinking over the theft thing for quite a while now, having read a few articles on chasing and protecting your equipment from theft, and/or how to help prevent it.

Even though I live in the country, and my truck is parked inside a chain-link fence and I have 3 dogs, there are still concerns for when I am away from home and in questionable territory. Obviously I can't be near or around my truck the whole time to shoot someone in the knee cap should they defy me, so what do you do?

Obviously, not carry much equipment, such as cameras or camcorders, laptops and of the sort. But what about more stationary devices such as CBs, hams or police scanners? Right now I have my ham radio mounted, and soon I'd like to put my CB back in along with a police scanner. It's not that I want to stuff my vehicle full of equipment to more verify my chaser "status"; the CB and police scanner don't relate much to chasing for me most of the time.

I've always had a CB since I was a kid, being I live next to an interstate, and occasionally talk to the truckers and see what's going up on the highway. Police scanners come in handy not only for monitoring police and fire bands when chasing for damage and such, but for Friday and Saturday night cruising when you're bored and wanna hear what's going on in town or elsewhere, for that matter.

Being my truck is older, 1973 to be exact, it has clear windows which makes it quite easy to see into. Usually when I go in somewhere for more than a few minutes, I lock my door and roll up my window (all other doors and windows stay locked/rolled up), and lay one of my atlases across my radio to not draw attention.

This idea has been getting me paranoid for a while now, and I've been thinking of theft-deterrent measures. The one advantage I have is that my truck is not exactly...cosmetically flawless, should I say. And being I'm a redneck, it passes for a redneck truck. An ignorant thief would probably just think I had dual antennas for a cheap CB and not look twice.

There's either two main solutions. Conceal the equipment better or remove it completely when not chasing; which is a lot of hassle to go through just to keep some punk from stealing your stuff. Or, modify the lock system of the vehicle door, and have bullet-proof/unbreakable glass installed.

Neither of these I really want to do, or can't afford. Which brings me to the questions, how much equipment do you have with you most of the time, chasing or not? Have you ever had stuff stolen, or vehicle broken into? Have simple deterrents been effective for you?
This has plagued more than one chaser - - - I always park inside. At home I go to the trouble of making sure the garage is clean so I can get my car in there every night. Any other time that I'm out and the equipment is with me (most of the time), then the equipment comes inside with me to work. I also keep the car alarmed at all times.
A big Pelican case can be locked with two padlocks - once it is, it won't be easy to get into. A big heavy case is hard to run away with unnoticed. Furthermore, you can get a thick braided steel cable and lock the case to one of the passenger seats. Another steel cable attached to the seat can secure your tripods. On top of all that, a security alarm costs a couple hundred dollars but is worth the peace of mind. Nothing is totally theft-proof, but you can do some of these things that will make the average thief think twice, and have one heck of a job on his hands if he's determined to try anyway.

You can leave your cameras at home, but honestly, I'd say they aren't much more secure there either. Plus, the weather always has surprises and you'll be amazed how many times the sky will go nuts when you've left your camera back at home.
I haven't investigated this here in Kansas yet since I'm just now getting ready to make the switch here, but in Michigan this is how I handled it.

Keep in mind that I was insured through Farm Bureau. None of my radio equipment (not stereo) was covered by my regular auto policies, so I had to add another policy. I paid an extra $30 per year for $3,000 in coverage for "communications gear". This covered anything ham, CB, and anything used for communications. I didn't worry about asking for anything for the camera gear simply because it's not in there all the time, but the radios are. Anything that is in there year-round I have covered. Just make sure that when you talk about insuring your radios that they understand you are not talking about STEREO equipment :wink:

It amazes me that there are barely any thefts of chase gear. I think most chasers have a lot of common sense and use the "out of sight, out of mind" rule. It's not a guarantee but seems to be quite effective.

I lost all my chase gear in March of 2002 while my vehicle was sitting in my driveway. Whenever I am on the road the gear never leaves my side nor do I leave any in the vehicle while at a hotel. I let my guard down and thought that my driveway would be safe........the next morning everything but my bogen was gone. I know of at least one other chaser that has lost everything in the driveway. The bottom line is dont leave your gear in your car. If you are really worried about it you can go as far as making quick connects on your radio equipment and remove your ham and CB when you go inside. I decided to go the opposite route and bolted mine in.

Graham Butler
gbutler at darkskyproductions dot com
So far (knock on wood!)

So far, I haven't had too much iisue with theft. The only two incidents I had, I figured out who it was and busted him pretty good (not violent, legally). I've since moved into another neighborhood. I hinted around that I was a Police Officer (I really was at one time and still carry the Certification Card, helps while chasing too). Most of the kids on the block leave my stuff alone as they 'think' I'm still a cop. The adults on the block have this impression as well, but most of them are pretty good folks and we all watch out for each other.

100% foolproof? No way. Having good neighbors is really worth it though.

As Tim says, out of sight removes the temptations. Hiding stuff is generally pretty easy. Mounted radios are a little tougher, but some strategic placement helps out a lot. The newer Ham radios have followed the car stereo folks and have a detachable faces. That's a big plus. Having all of your serial numbers in a safe place will be helpful if you do get 'boosted' and the stuff ends up in a local pawn shop.

Unfortunately, I don't have a garage, so my truck gets to sit outside. Right by my front porch under the light. That and the mighty Chihuahua is a great alarm. Of course cats and whatever small noise in the night also sets of this alarm.
I designed my chase vehicle so everything unplugs and goes with me when I leave the truck. I spent quite a bit of time picking equipment that is easy to remove and reinstall quickly, and this seems to work out very well on a chase. Things I would recommend - if your state allows it, have your windows tinted, and use those solar window shades that you put in your windshield to block out heat. If you make it so that it's not easy to just glance in and grab something, that will cut down on the chances you'll become a target. Using a combination of tinted windows and those shields help to make it difficult to see right into a car easily, especially at night. Most thieves are not going to hang around with a flashlight trying to see what you have installed, they are looking for a quick crime of opportunity. Also known as the "smash and grab", keeping valuables (even on a non chase day) out of sight will go a long ways in theft avoidance. Also vehicle alarms will help - I've even seen fake alarms that are nothing more than a blinking LED stuck to the dash to make someone think the car had an alarm. As a former police officer I saw plenty of these crimes and most were because someone just got careless and left their stuff in plain view.
With Chris's recent horror story and my close-call last month, I felt it to be a decent opportunity to revive this old thread on equipment theft.

My car was stolen last month and fortunately, the equipment I had in the car at the time was only ripped from the mounts and left piled in the front seat. Fortunately all I lost was my cell phone, a set of keys, and some time at work. I guess the question that begs to be answered is how can you prevent theft when you're out and about in general (like Chris).

First of all, I have all my mobile equipment covered by insurance; each piece listed with the serial numbers and descriptions (maybe a photo). When I bought my Compaq Laptop, I sent them a detailed list of everything the laptop has, including a copy of the receipt with all needed information. I figure in some instances, theft is impossible to stop, but if it does happen, I do want to make sure I'm covered.

What I have covered is my HAM radio, 2 Sony D8 camcorders, and the laptop. I don't have any of my other, smaller, pieces covered directly, but they fall under my renter's insurance with the $500 deductable.

My car is a pretty obvious find. My close call was the actual theft of my vehicle. Fortunately we found it. But what about the goodies inside? I've looked into other resources to prevent theft and/or track down an item if it is stolen. For most of my equipment, that may be a stretch, but in later years, I may opt for various things for more expensive equipment. GPS tracking is popular for the vehicle itself, which could help if a thief steals your car in "broad daylight" and you notice the vehicle gone within a few minutes. I think that obviously would aid more in recovering your vehicle as opposed to the equipment; but what's the most important piece of equipment while chasing, right?

I guess the easiest thing to do is minimize the amount of time you're equipment is left in the vehicle. While chasing, I typically make an effort to carry a few things in with me if I go in for dinner or something. Since I finally was able to get a case which held the major parts of my video equipment, I can just carry in the case with me as opposed to leaving it in the car. As for the items in the car, I'll typically pack them in the trunk or hide them in the car someplace. While that won't always help, it may at least deter a potential thief long enough for them to move elsewhere.

When staying at a hotel, everything goes in with me that can be carried out in a case. I refuse to leave any equipment in my car overnight when I'm not home. And even when I'm home, I rarely ever leave it sitting out there, especially in an apartment complex.

Just a few words regarding the theft issue I thought were worth bringing up as the 2005 chase season is approaching and we all start to outfit our vehicles for the coming months. Be safe!
The harder you make it for them to take anything out, the more likely they are going to go on to the next car with that nice new dvd player laying in the seat.

Get an alarm! The last thing thieves want is an attention being drawn to what they are doing. Flashing lights and sirens going off is good for that. Get one that sets itself automatically in case you forget AND locks the doors for you. Some alarms you can get that send a high pitched shrill noise throughout the interior when they go off that causes pain in the ears so that a thief can't stand it in there.

If you have to leave something in there (like eating out after a chase or something) hide everything that isn't bolted down somewhere, hide it under something, in the trunk, in the back covered up by a coat or blanket, stick it in an empty cooler. Take some of the temptation away. They won't want to steal what they can't see. Oh, and do this BEFORE you get to your destination, not in the parking lot so they can see you doing it.

Hard wire and bolt in as many things as you can stand to inside your chase vehicle, so they would have to work to get it out!

Tinted windows are helpful at night to keep people from getting a good look at what you have inside. The down side would be if you chase much after dark, you have decreased visibility.

If your staying in a motel on the road, take in EVERYTHING of value that isn't bolted on somewhere! Try to get a room where you can park next to your door so you can hear the alarm going off.

I honestly think too that high profile chase vehicles also benefit from the fact that they are highly visible and people are ALWAYS looking at them when they are nearby. If you were a thief, what would you break in to? Something everyone is looking at when they walk by, or that plain little car on the other side of the parking lot?

Thiefs don't want to be seen, heard, or noticed, and they want to know what the prize is once they get in, and they want it easy. Eliminate the temptation, protect what you can't eliminate with noise, and make people notice.

If all else fails, the old west method of hunting them down like a dog can be invoked! :wink:
Sounds like with the increased value of equipment being brought out into the field these days, we may have to work these tips into our FAQs.

Interesting to compare nowadays to the 1980s, when all most chasers brought was a $300 camera and some film.

Yet another reason to not have 10 antennas hanging off of your vehicle.

Great idea in reviving the thread Tony. Last time I posted I had just moved back to Kansas, and now I know that my equipment is covered by my homeowner's policy with Shelter Insurance.

Many people like to leave their stuff in the wide open view because people think all the equipment is cool and may think you have some greater purpose, all the more reason to conceal it if you want to keep it.

I don't keep all my cameras and such in my vehicle all the time, but my radios stay put all year. With the exception of the remote head for my dual band, most people wouldn't notice a trace of equipment in there, and the remote head blends well with the console so it's pretty hidden also.