Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996

Camera Car Security

Published : 14th August 2003


One of the nightmares of owning equipment is security. I have always lived in a house with a secure garage and have left my camera gear locked in the van locked in the alarmed garage. Due to mind boggling housing costs I am to move into a house with no garage or off street parking. What do other people do in this situation ? I suspect the spectacle of loading gear in and out of the house would advertise the fact the house was full of valuable gear not to mention kill my back. I have a car alarm, darkened windows and a cage around the gear in the van.

I am considering adding satellite tracking. Any thoughts apart from rattlers on the back seat that will deter thieves ?

Tom Gleeson
Cinematographer
Sydney

http://www.zipworld.com.au/~tomglee/



Tom wrote

>I am considering adding satellite tracking.

Sat tracking will probably recover your vehicle but not necessarily its contents, the thieves usually steal the vehicle as a means of getting its contents to a place where it can be unloaded and then dump/torch the vehicle.

My experiences

Keep the security low key, padlocks or extra locks on the outside not only draw attention they also give notice to the thief to come equipped with the right tools for the job.

Chain and padlock the tailgate from the inside. Its cheap to do and the thieves don't no what they are up against. I leave enough slack to allow the door to open enough so the alarm is activated. I run the chain down a tube to the passenger compartment. It takes less than 20 seconds to fix the chain via a carabina on the rear tailgate, slam it shut, open the passenger door, pull the chain tight and close the padlock through the chain at the mouth of the pipe.

If the vehicle has a sliding door figure out a way of putting a padlock through the runner rails so it blocks the door runner. You may have to drill a hole. Use padlocks with the same key, get it keyed to your front door key as you'll always look after that!

Remove the door lock release knob on the passenger door so that entry by breaking window, reaching inside and opening door is not possible. I retain the drivers door release although on my new vehicle their is a button on the dash that will unlock all the doors Aladdin's cave.

Put black hd foam between the rear windows and cage or window grill. Tie it to the cage with wire. It makes it impossible to see inside and if someone breaks a window speculatively its a surprise awkward barrier to get a axe or metal shears through.

Check your insurance to see if there is a limit to your cover in "unattended vehicles". In the UK this limit ranges from £20-30k. "Unattended" in the UK, means the absence of the presence of someone to deter a thief from tampering with the vehicle. Hmmm, sounded vague to me, when I quizzed the broker he said that if you are not in the vehicle or obviously nearby then its unattended. Parking it outside the restaurant window where you are eating lunch counts as unattended! If you can't show them bruises and/or a good description of the thief then they will say its unattended.

Make sure you are within earshot of the vehicles' alarm.

Think carefully before you allow anyone to work on the vehicles electric's should, shoddy workmanship result in a fire.

Keep a *good* sized fire extinguisher in the house.

Remove call sheets or anything else that is revealing about what you do from view.

I also take the chain and padlock when I travel, padlocking the flight cases together both in a unattended rental vehicle and in a hotel room if we have a day off or a on a recce.

Keep the camera with you if you can, to lower the value of kit in the vehicle.

If you do all of the above the insurers will be satisfied that you did everything possible and more than most, to minimize the risk.

Finally write to both equipment the insurers and vehicle insurers stating your security measures, get them to agree in writing that they accept the "modifications"

Mike Brennan



>Check your insurance to see if there is a limit to your cover in >"unattended vehicles".

If it's a personal camera package, keep in regular contact with your insurance broker. For the first couple of years, my insurance wouldn't cover anything stolen from an unattended vehicle... After 2 or 3 years without a claim, this clause was amended to allow for coverage with a higher deductible ($5,000 as opposed to the usual $1,500). But I did have to ask the question - they didn't do it automatically.

George Hupka
Director/DP, Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



Walter wrote

> I have a better idea. Don't keep your equipment in your car.

OK here is the insurance criteria for my small garage/studio/storage facility that is attached to my home.

* Install Burglar alarm
* Dedicated telephone line to security centre
* Protection from electrical fires RCBs etc (those dangerous battery chargers!)
* Equipment stored more than six inches off the floor (we have never been flooded)
* Laminated glass on windows (thieves would come through the breeze block wall)
* Window locks
* Heavy duty door locks
* Never leave the house unattended for more than 4 weeks (can't afford a holiday)
* Don't have paying lodgers (surplus space full of camera equipment)

Hmmm, its probably cheaper to forgo the cost of insurance and alarms and
the like and invest

Mike Brennan



Tom Gleeson writes :

> One of the nightmares of owning equipment is security.


If you are determined to leave your equipment in an unattended vehicle, here are a couple of suggestions from some acquaintances of mine who once made their living ripping off still photographers. (Still equipment is a lot easier to fence.)

These suggestions should still apply to mp equipment :

1/. Get a commercial alarm with a back up battery system not connected to the
vehicle's electrical system. A practiced thief will crawl under your car and cut the car battery's ground cable; this will disable nearly every car alarm ever made. Hard wire all the alarm contacts so that all the alarm switches are "supervised", that is, you will know if any of the switches are not working. If you are unfamiliar with these systems, the companies that outfit tool trucks such as Snap-On or Matco can do it for you.

2/. Place the alarm speaker in an in-accessible place, high in the engine compartment, near the firewall.

3/. Chain and lock down the engine hood.

4/. Put another alarm speaker -- the loudest you can get -- inside the vehicle. If it's loud enough, it will induce anxiety in all but the most determined thief.

5/. Consider getting an alarm controller that has a built in cell phone dialler. If the alarm is activated, the dialler will call any pre-programmed number. Have it call your cell phone, pager, home phone, neighbour's phone, etc. in case you turn off your cell phone or in case your cell phone battery dies.

6/. Have you thought about renting garage space or renting space in an attended parking lot?

7/. Don't just take the insurance agent's word on what is or is not covered. Have a lawyer examine your insurance policy.

8/. Consider removing or disconnecting part of the vehicle's ignition system when you park. Most car thieves don't carry spare parts or won't want to take the time to trouble shoot your car while the alarm is blaring.

9/. In any event, take the most valuable items out of the vehicle – camera body, lenses, exposed film, leave the cases.

Good Luck

Brian "grew up in NYC" Heller
IA 600



> 2. Place the alarm speaker in an inaccessible place…


Reading some of the suggestions posted on how to secure your vehicle has convinced me to say "Tom, take the bloomin' gear out of the bloomin' vehicle." The time, cost and energy used in doing all that security stuff will be worth years of peaceful sleeping and not have you lying awake wondering if all the security is really going to work.

Pieter de Vries acs
Cinematographer
Sydney, Australia