Bay Area Photojournalists Being Robbed of Their Camera Gear


Apparently robbers in Northern California are starting to learn that photojournalists typically shoot with pretty expensive gear. The New York Times reports that robbers have been targeting news photographers in recent months, sometimes at gunpoint:

Last August, Laura Oda, chief photographer for The Oakland Tribune, was photographing people painting the mural when she spotted someone in her peripheral vision. “Within seconds they were on me,” she said, “one in front and one in back.” Armed, they pulled cameras off her neck and grabbed her bag of cameras and a laptop from her car.

Three months later, Ms. Oda was photographing cars at a busy intersection when she was again robbed of her camera, at gunpoint once more. For a while, she avoided the streets of Oakland. She has since returned but has established a new rule: she does not stay in one place for more than five minutes.

One veteran photojournalist has already lost five cameras to robbery. Each successful theft nets the robbers between $3,000 to $50,000 in gear — gear that hasn’t been turning up on the secondary market (e.g. craigslist).

In Oakland, Photojournalists Covering Crimes Become the Victims [NYTimes]

Image credit: Oakland Tribune by James Cridland

  • Steve Stevenson

    I think the characters of Oakland are the reason why she was robbed, and not that she was a photojournalist.
    Thieves just see a camera as a camera.

  • Kevin Fulton

    True. They don’t really care who the photographers work for, they just know that their gear looks expensive….at least at first. Eventually they’ll catch on to hot spots to find people with expensive camera gear and these will most likely be populated by photojournalists or enthusiasts. All the more reason to travel light.

  • Tobias Weisserth

    The solution is so simple and obvious – according to the NRA. All she needs to do is carry a loaded gun with her and shoot the robbers next time. Carrying a gun herself will obviously make her safer and she stops being the victim. Easy, huh?

  • brandon

    what steve said, plus, what makes you say they haven’t turned up on second hand places like craig’s list? because they haven’t shown up on the oakland craig’s list yet? sure criminals can be that stupid, but really…

  • Bill

    I kind of have to agree with Steve. When I shoot and I am by myself, I am always weary of my surroundings, almost to the point of paranoia. I feel it’s better to keep an eye on everyone around you then to get caught off guard.

    I remember shooting in downtown LA at midnight and a guy approached me as I was shooting. I saw him and saw that he had made eye contact with me, so I knew he was going to approach me or something, not know his intentions, I closed my truck with all the camera gear inside. Not bragging, but I had about $25,000 in gear in the truck including a 400mm 2.8, so that would have not been good to lose.

    Now that wouldn’t have prevented him from robbing me if he intended to, but being a little proactive helps. As it turned out, the guy, who had just been released from the LAPD lock-up just moments before, as he mentioned, was just looking for change to take a taxi home.

  • Swade

    This is an example of an ignorant comment.

  • TSY87

    obviously the real solution is to have 911 on speed dial. So after 10 minutes when the cops arrive, they can prevent the crime from happening… oh wait…

  • Ashley

    I agree. Maybe if she had thoughts of invisibility the scumbags would not have seen her in the first place. I often worry about my safety and the gear I carry with me. I try to be as aware of my surroundings as I can be, despite having my face stuck in the back of a camera.

  • Steve Stevenson

    So you’re a troll, huh.

    Possibly, if she had a handgun open carry on her hip, she might not have been robbed.
    There is no way to know a “what if”.
    However, if you really want to go down that road, the areas with strict gun laws have the most gun violence.
    And areas that have the least gun laws have low gun violence.

    Now, let’s keep the discussion photo oriented.

  • DamianM

    Customize cameras with a fingerprint identifier thingamajig
    they would steal it but they wont be able to use it?

  • Tfcreate Tfcreations

    I’m a free lance photographer. I also am licensed to carry a gun.
    Wherever it’s legal, I am armed when on assignment.

  • Detroit

    I feel her pain and I hope she is not responsible for her gear. The difficult part is you are trying to focus on your job and as much as we pay attention things slip thru. I agree with the short time limits as it is something I stick to. I focus more on fine art so I’m lucky enough to preplan and chose the magic hours for lighting.

    I have been shooting the streets of Detroit for years and while I have not lost any gear I have had my share of run ins and have had to defend myself.

    I have dialed 911 and the police never showed. I’m usually trespassing and if I was to carry I can see that turning into a felony weapons charge so why bother?

    With the economy dipping so low people are willing to do anything for a few extra bucks.

  • eraserhead12

    .. could be that areas with the least gun laws don’t need them

  • eraserhead12

    yeah seriously, it’s oakland. if you’re not careful and you look like you have something valuable on you, it’s just something bad waiting to happen. I go went to cal, I literally know two students robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight

  • Neumenon


    Used to work in it once upon a time.

    An incompetent city government and a largely clueless population in so many areas will create an environment for this type of crime to occur.

  • Jeffrey Yen

    What I find interesting is that it is noted that none of the equipment has turned up on the secondary market. I wonder where it is going? Out of the country to places where there is a huge premium on new equipment I would guess. I know there are websites where you can track a camera by the metadata when new images are posted. Maybe they should try that, what’s the point of having a tool if it isn’t going to be used?

  • Bob Honiker

    Robbers really love gun free zones!

  • Ned

    The story didn’t mention that TV news crews have also been targeted. Does not matter if your in the van or not, they come up point a gun and take your stuff. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for over 50 years, I stay out of Oakland. I just don’t go there for anything except jury duty. Even then, I could get shot in the court room in that piss hole city.

  • Eziz

    Better yet, if the camera electrocuted you if you didn’t have the matching prints. :D

  • Duke Shin

    >Shooting with an expensive looking camera IN OAKLAND
    >Wondering why she was robbed

  • 323

    Photo oriented? Its not what was robbed, but how.
    By gun, from an unarmed person. This is not a discussion about photo equipment.

  • eraserhead12

    too bad it spills over into every nearby city within driving distance–colleges with naive students and expensive electronics are a favorite. when my peaceful suburban hometown has the once-in-a-blue-moon armed robbery, where do you think the perps come from?

  • Donald

    New equipment? Journalists beat the sh*t out of their stuff. I doubt it looks appealing to the unsuspecting.

  • Mike

    Very simple solution, explosive lenses. Not the tiny kit lenses, I’m talking about the big Ls and Sigmas.
    With each of those scumbags joining the fine red mist club, photographers and everyone will be a bit safer.

  • charlieS

    girl!…where do you think you are? your in Oakland, CA!!!!!!

  • Zos Xavius

    That’s all well and good. What happens when someone walks up to you with a gun drawn already? By the time you reach for your holster you will be dead. I’m all for carrying protection, but honestly, how much good is that gun going to do you when you have no way of reaching for it?

  • Zos Xavius

    Agree. I also shoot in some awful areas and moving constantly is the best, safest plan of all. A bit of street smarts goes a long ways too. Also treat people you come across with respect and kindness. It goes a long way towards keeping situations from becoming dangerous.

  • droops

    It’s meant to be sardonic commentary on the NRA

  • Ken Jones

    Another good rule might be have a buddy who does nothing but watch your back. Heck, police work on that model: contact and cover officer. Depending on the department you might even be able to hire an officer or deputy for off duty assignment. They not only could watch your back, but also effect an arrest.

    Regardless, another person is better than being alone: a buddy as a tag-along, an assistant, or armed body guard. High crime areas simply don’t pay to appear inattentive.

  • David Amerson

    Actually you can’t just shoot someone for robbery. Your life has to actually be in danger. The camera isn’t worth someones life.

  • Pod

    Depends on the jurisdiction. Here in Florida, if someone points a gun at me, even if it is just to rob me of my possessions, I am free to kill them without legal repercussions. I am also in the clear if the assailant has a knife, club, etc. Since we’re not mind-readers and we can’t read intent. If there’s a loaded weapon pointed at me, my assumption is the owner of that weapon means to kill me.

    That’s why you don’t draw your weapon unless you intend on destroying whatever you point it at. There’s no “just kidding” when it comes to firearms.

    Now, here’s the thing. All this Clint Eastwood stuff doesn’t work unless you know what you are doing. The lady in question could have had an MP5 on her person but if she doesn’t know how to use it, it’s more of a liability than an asset to her defense. It’s why the most important thing about the right to keep and bear a firearm is to be educated in it’s handling and use. You don’t have to be an expert marksman but at least know how to shoot and put steel on target. And also, know the pertinent laws in your jurisdiction. Florida pretty much permits shoot-to-kill in self-defense. California, I’m willing to bet it’s not as cut and dry. New York, forget about it, the robber’s family will probably sue you.

  • Zos Xavius

    when I go to really bad areas I always try to take someone along with me for that exact reason.

  • Tfcreate Tfcreations

    If I’m paying attention to what’s going on around me, NO one will even approach me without my knowledge… with or without a gun.

  • Zos Xavius

    I can’t argue with that. :)

    I find that if you are in a high robbery zone with a nice camera to look over your shoulder constantly and KEEP MOVING. Keep interactions to a minimum, avoid people, and if you do cross paths, make eye contact and even say hello. Respect helps. It also helps if you are a guy to be honest and if you keep a gleeful murderous sneer on your face, people pretty much leave you alone anyways. If you don’t look like a good victim people will generally not try to rob you. If you look like you could be dangerous, even better. I don’t actually carry a gun. I’ve considered it many times, but in a situation where someone would suddenly pull something on me, I’ve realized I wouldn’t have much chance to really respond in kind. I also don’t know if I could live with killing someone over a camera. Not amount of gear is worth anyone’s life. I feel if someone threatens your life, you have every right to take theirs, but honestly, I’d be much happier if we both just walked away.

  • Jorge Almodovar

    And that’s why FL has so many unnecessary murders. The stand your ground law needs to be revamped. Your right about NY, all criminals end up with some form of legal compensation. Its stupid.

  • Wuz nt Me

    So, you’d take their word for it that they’re ONLY going to take the camera? No one decides to forcibly take someones property without backing it up with some threat of violence. Only an idiot would bet their life on that violence being non-deadly. In most states I’ve lived in you simply have to be in fear for your life to justify the use of deadly force. In Texas you can use deadly force to protect property.

    Either way, all over this country we have given up our personal responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones. IF in the Bay Area the general populace was known to be armed and personally responsible for their own safety it’s likely these crimes would reduce in frequency. It’s not enough to just have the right to keep and bear arms. You have to exercise that right for it to have any positive impact on your life.

  • Wuz nt Me

    What happens when godzilla steps on you? Bet you didn’t think about that!

  • Koolaid

    I honestly think this is just further proof that the united states news media doesn’t want rich and informative stories, so when something significant occurs it won’t e reported on and easily brushed under the rug and instead you’ll just see some ignorant report from twitter about what someone ate today. I believe this is another step toward keeping the people uninformed and unaware