Why You Should Be Extra Careful When Bringing Camera Gear Through Airports

You’ve probably heard people say that you should keep your camera gear with you at all times when flying, as there are multiple points in the travel process at which your valuable equipment could get stolen or damaged. In case you’re not convinced, check out the video above showing an investigative report that ABC News recently did.

To test airports that have a history of theft, Brian Ross of ABC’s The Blotter left 10 iPads inside the plastic bins at security checkpoints. At 9 out of 10 airports, the screeners followed protocol and immediately contacted the owner using the contact info prominently displayed on the iPad. In the 10th case, an agent was filmed taking the iPad out of the bin before it vanished.

Don’t forget your camera bag in one of these bins — you might not get it back.

Unlike digital cameras, iPads have a built-in tracking feature called Find My iPad. Using this feature, Ross tracked down the missing iPad two weeks later to a house 30 miles away from the airport, which turned out to be the residence of the TSA agent last seen handling the device. When Ross and a camera crew confronted the man, he denied knowing about the iPad, and then tried to put responsibility on his wife after Ross made the device beep (again, using Find My iPad).

ABC reports that 381 TSA agents have been fired between 2003 and 2012 for stealing things from airline passenger luggage. Experts believe that this figure may only be the tip of the iceberg. The TSA defended itself after ABC’s sting, claiming that theft wasn’t a widespread problem and that the fired agents “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed.”

Less than one-half of one percent is still a pretty high figure when we’re talking about the risk of losing cameras and lenses worth thousands of dollars.

Moral of the story: keep both eyes on your camera bag at all times, and always do carry-on instead of check-in whenever possible.

P.S. In case you missed it, last year we shared a disconcerting video showing why putting a lock on your zippered luggage doesn’t really do anything to protect its contents from theft.

Image credit: Can we get any more degrading by mandiberg