Watch your Gear - Thieves in Russia Steal Photographer's Lens Off His Camera

Many of us travel, sometimes for work and sometimes as a tourist, but one thing I'm sure most of our readers have in common is that no matter where you travel, a camera is coming with you. This video serves as a sobering reminder that at any given time as a photographer in public you have hundreds if not thousands of dollars of equipment by your side, and as you can see this proves to be very temping for thieves with some skill in deception.

So how can a theft like this be avoided? I can think of a few ways.

1) Carry your camera by your side, not your neck. In the video we can clearly see that the photographer was distracted by the crowd and didn't notice/feel the lens being removed from his camera from a simple press of a button and turn. By holding the camera in such a way that someone can't do this as obviously, like by holding the grip in your hand by your side, you'll be able to tell when someone else is trying to mess with it.

2) Cover the lens lock button with electrical tape. This will make it less discoverable, and harder to press down all the way, giving you some time to realize what's going on.

3) When confronted by a large group at once, secure equipment. At this point it doesn't matter how paranoid you look, in a lot of tourist areas it's common practice for thieves to overwhelm a victim by quickly surrounding them in a group. If you find this happening, shield that camera like your own child and move to a safe location.

4) Get insured. These things will ultimately happen and sometimes it's unavoidable, making sure you're covered will take a lot of stress out of the situation.


Have any of your own theft stories or tips to share? Let me know in the comments!

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Nic Cage's Hair's picture

Wouldn't matter. With all those guys working as a team, even if he discovered what was going on, they would have held him for the 3 seconds it would have taken for one of them to remove the lens and scatter. I'm surprised they just didn't lift the camera off his neck as well.

Thomas Shue's picture

Man, Those Fucks Should Be Shot in the Head! I hate thieves and these gypsy types are the worst! WOW, you hear about this stuff but I have never seen it in this POV. Thanks for posting this vid here for discussion.

David Silverman's picture

"Gypsy types" are scum! Yeah, I mean I would prefer my stuff stolen by nice white thieves. Racist much?

Thomas Shue's picture

I didn't know gypsy was an actual race of people. Hard to be racist if the comment wasn't directed to an actual race of people. It was directed towards the gypsy types who go around stealing in packs. Just like in the video.
Or this one

or this one or this one here is a whole documtary about gypsy thieves by the BBC it goes on and on. Gypsy and stealing is a fact that goes back for generations. Calling them gypsy skum isn't racist as far as I am concerned.

Jr Miller's picture

And that's why we have race relations classes for people who don't get it.

Kevin Geary's picture

Lol. Is gypsy a race now?

David Silverman's picture

Yes, Kevin. The Romani people (called Gypsies in English) originated from the Indian subcontinent and emigrated to Europe about 1500 years ago. They were persecuted in Europe throughout the middle ages and modern era and were, along with Jews, victims of genocide by the Nazis during the last century. So Kevin, the answer is yes.

woofa's picture

That term is also used for a lifestyle of certain people.

Kevin Geary's picture

You may want to learn the difference between race and ethnicity. You also may want to research the use of gypsy as a general lifestyle label.

David Silverman's picture

Kevin Geary, since you brought it up, the term "race" has become obsolete in most academic and social scientific circles. Anthropologists, Sociologist and others in the scientific community have come to recognize that dividing the worlds populations based on genetic differences or similarities is an outdated social construct that has no basis in science. Instead they embrace the terms populations, peoples, ethnic groups and communities. The Romani people are indeed a people that share a unique history, language, culture, customs and yes, genetic traits. The larger point however is missed. If a group, people or population is persecuted, hated, referred to with derision, called "the scum of the earth" and generally scorned then we are talking about racism. Whether that group is a so called "race" or an "ethnicity" is a distinction without a difference. On your other point the term "gypsy" in general lifestyle comes from a source. That source is the Romani people. If you want to want to talk about people who steal for a lifestyle, then the term "thieves" is sufficient without referring to a people.

HeadTag's picture

No David, the term GYPSIES is sufficient to describe these thieves. Come and live in Rome, Italy, where I do, and you would know. They are ethnically identifiable on sight, refuse to integrate with the rest of society, and live by theft, begging and scavenging.
Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, all tourists coming to Rome: This is an announcement, formulated in honesty and truth and fact from first-hand observation and the bottom of my heart: Watch out for gypsy thieves! They have sallow, yellowish tanned skin, dark eyes and hair, (though some gypsy girls have a sort of 'dirty' 'olive' mid-blonde hair, hard to describe until you see it, but nobody else has it) look dirty and kind of 'smudged', travel in small packs of three to six, and will steal anything not tied down. They are not Italian, and any Italian will agree with me that they are recalcitrant, deceitful, and a blot on the landscape. In the suburbs they scavenge from household rubbish (trash) skips. The men drive their families around in flatbed trucks looking for unguarded houses to steal from, and full rubbish skips, and when they find a nice full rubbish skip full of rotting dirty waste, they send their wives and children to crawl INTO the skip and sift and dig through it for salvageable items. Then the wife sits down in the road amid the rubbish and sifts through the rubbish some more until the husband comes by in the truck again to pick them up. That's her day's work. This is a lifestyle choice for them, literally living like rats. If it were not for their basic appearance (ie hominids walking upright on two legs), one would justifiably wonder if they really are human, for they give no other behavioural indication that they are, apart from the shared mammalian characteristcs of eating, procreation, and excretion. But the real social-anthropological explanation is that they live like this because they are so proud of their own culture that they have stooped to the very lowest form of lifestyle, rather than integrate with the host civilisation. So keep well clear of them. They have no interest in you or your culture, and will only come close to you when they want your money or possessions. Apart from that, they have no interest at all in anything you do, say, are, or think. They are usually non-violent, preferring either begging, or the most cunning and well-rehearsed ploys of silent theft to liberate you from your possessions, which, unlike them, you have worked to pay for. Their children rarely attend school, instead they spend their days being dragged around the subway trains by their mothers as dramatic props and mamma's little helpers for begging acts, and being taught intricate pickpocketing skills by their fathers and older siblings.
Sometimes, the prettier of their teenage girls will dress smart as if working in an office and pretend to be regular subway commuters, but this is only a disguise so that they can get closer to you and steal.
If they've suffered genocide in the past, I'm sorry for them, but they sure haven't picked up any social skills in the intervening years which might mitigate saving them from any future pogrom. I wish them no harm, but cannot countenance their dishonest lifestyle which every year inflicts misery on so many well-meaning and naively trusting tourists who fall victim to their thefts. Today's gypsies in Rome make no attempt to ingratiate themselves with the wider population, they have no friends in the world, and clearly don't want any. They want to be left alone, but at YOUR expense. So don't be taken in by 'intellectual' pleas that they are sweet, 'Romani' people with a colourful folk culture and a difficult history. They are merely predators. They are not 'misunderstood'. You will understand them very well when you come to Rome and they relieve of your camera, lens, purse, wallet, passport, credit card.
Oh by the way, they also steal children: So hang on tight to your babies and toddlers while on holiday in Rome. The gypsies steal them on subway trains and in busy supermarkets and quickly add a disguise to your child such as a wig and coat, or cut all its hair off in seconds, to buy them a few more moments while they make their getaway from the premises. They don't do this for ransom. It's simply to sell your child onto the mafia gangs who will then put your toddler to work as a prostitute or sell it illegally to a childless couple wishing to adopt at any price.
Well, that's gypsies for you, Hope that clears things up.

David Silverman's picture

It certainly does clear things up. You are a racist, but have very good reasons for being so. Thank you for your thoughtful explanation.

Michael Marcopoulos's picture

Looks like you are smart enough to get their ADN from a youtube video. WOW.
And thanks for the godwin...

Dorn Byg's picture

Honestly with that many experienced theives working together there is nothing that will stop them. Best you can do are things that will make it a little more difficult for them as suggested in the article. From there you can hope for them to go after the weekest of the herd and pick an easier target.

Cody Griffin Edger's picture

Dang.. Those guys had it down to a science! That really sucks. I'm about to go to India in the spring. I'll definitely take these tips to heart. Man.. poor dude!

Mike Fergusson's picture

Two attempts were made on my gear while in the Stockholm bus terminal last spring; the first day of a three month trip of teaching workshops and archaeological fieldwork in Sweden, Norway and Jordan. We had a few pelican cases and bags, all cable locked to the table as we waited. I was sitting alone and one guy sat at the next table and started to distract me, but I'm pretty paranoid so I saw another walk right up to grab my ipad off the table. Luckily I stared him down and he didn't take anything.

An hour or so later we were boarding our bus. We loaded our gear in the undercarriage, and got in line to board. Luckily both sides of the undercarriage were open, and I thought I saw another person from my group pick up my Gura Gear Kiboko (full of pretty much everything I own)... except he put it on his shoulder and started to walk away. I dropped my shoulderbag and ran around the bus, sprinting straight at the pair walking away with my bag. Luckily they were walking slowly so as to not arouse suspicion, so I pretty much tackled the guy. They managed to get away, but not with any of my gear.

I shared the story with Gura Gear, and had quite a humourous email exchange with Greg Schern (president) about putting remote controlled tasers in bag handles. A few weeks later my Chobe ripped, and after a quick email exchange a brand new bag was on its way to Jordan.

Jacob delaRosa's picture

My first rule of photography: NEVER EVER EVER EVER LEAVE YOUR CAMERA IN THE CAR!!!! On a personal note, unless I was on a paid gig abroad, I wouldn't take my pro gear along. I have an old film camera with a 50mm that would do the job rather nicely and should it disappear, my only loss would be $100 and 5-7 days to get a "new" one from evilbay.

Hank's picture

I have blackout tints on my windows and I leave gear in my car every night.

lololalallll's picture

I'm lucky I've never had my stuff lifted or attempted to be lifted. But it's all insured so it doesn't matter to me really if it gets stolen.

Eric's picture

Don't have roommates. My roommate stole all my gear a month ago from inside the house and took off. I haven't seen her in a month, have to evict her, and am out of business because I have nothing left. Also make sure you keep your insurance current even paying that bill before other bills if you're short of cash.

geofflister's picture

Counter: Have a roommate with as much gear as you. And bonus, they are far more willing to go halfers on that insurance.

Sam Wagner's picture

have a roommate with *more expensive gear than* you

woofa's picture

When you have roommates you need a place you can secure your stuff where they do not have access. I have never lived with anyone I didn't know where to find them if they took off with my stuff. Don't know how people live with just someone they meet and decide to be roommates with.

Richard's picture

I've had my camera stolen in St Petersburg, possibly from the same group. Note the first guy (the one that actually took the lens). He is trying to sell you local tourist books. He holds them in a fan, blocking the view downward. Notice the others in the group using papers to block the photographers view and direct it away (to the right) from the direction that his lens is moving (to the left). It looks like there are four people here - two in black, one in white, and I am not sure what the guy behind him is doing (going into his backpack maybe?).

For me, the camera was taken from my bag, which I foolishly had on my shoulder but hanging down over my back (where I could not see it). While I was trying to get rid of the first person (with the books), someone else undid the latches on my bag (only latches, the bag did not have an inner zipper). As we walked another block (thinking we had rid ourselves of the bookseller), someone went into my bag and took the camera and attached lens. Someone said gypsies took my camera (in bad english). Another person in the group agreed, and used a rolled up newspaper to point in the opposite direction (and also to block my view to the person that was actually taking my camera. I should mention that this was right outside the exit to the busiest metro station, and it was 5pm rush hour. All I saw were faces all around me as far as I could see (again - rush hour).

I feel that the first person that said gypsies was the person that took the camera. He did not stop and kept walking, but glanced over his shoulder once (as if to check if I was following him).

It took me weeks or months to piece this together to what I think happened. It was a blink of the eye. I knew my camera was gone instantly because my camera bag got 2+ pounds lighter. I would guess that there were at least 4 people working me while I walked along with my wife - book seller, newspaper man, another person that was there also turning me around, and the thief.

Just watching this my heart rips in half again. This was the worst day of my life. That feeling just came back to me again - my heart is racing with adrenaline. Although I knew what I was getting myself into, part of me really wishes I had not clicked on this link. I feel awful all over again.

Three or four years later now, and I don't regret the loss of the camera. I was insured. I regret the loss of the irreplaceable photos. I even thought before I left the hotel 5 minutes before "Should I change to a new memory card?" I wish I had. I guess I was lucky to loose only 1 day of photos. Today I back up my photos daily to a photo vault, change my memory cards at least once per day, and my photos are backed up at home to three places.

Russia brings such bad memories, I doubt I will ever go back. It is a shame, because I also met one of the nicest persons to ever help me 2 days before, but my memories of Russia are completely clouded by this event.

Izabella's picture

I am sorry. What a terrible experience. Sorry! I know how you feel. I am from Brazil and this kind things happen all the time there. We feel total disoriented when happens and afterwards.

Sugando Pulando's picture

ha ha ha ce draguti sunt rusii...

Wayne Lennon's picture

The BBC had a part in a TV show about how not to be scammed, they used the same technique to take camera gear.

...they did return it though haha

Derek Breitbeck's picture

well, im a 220 lb former golden gloves boxer. i'd love to see the day someone tried to steal my lens. punks

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