Stolen Gear
/forum/topic/1183151/2

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JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

cgardner wrote:
The photo of the door is the exterior one? On the door knob latch you can see the second locking pin I mentioned previously. If the storeroom door knob latch doesn't have that locking pin it could be bypassed by anyone with a old credit card in 5 sec. without leaving a mark.

That would widen the possibilities beyond the "key" suspects and eliminate the locksmith as a one. They don't stay in business long if they do B&E on the side.


That photo is outside door. All three outside doors have same set-up. The person that did this had a key to those doors - no other way in.

Based on him having that key - he was a trusted person (or the locksmith). If I trusted enough to give key to entire office he would also have access to that room.

I must explain - that office, which I casually call "The Camera Room", is also used for packing / shipping / mail-order. We walk in and out of it dozens of times daily. We ship about 50+ packages a week and the other half of the room is the shipping area. The photo below is taken from the shelf near the camera bodies facing that other half so you can see what I mean.

Having that room super secure would be tough. As I mentioned just above. I travel a bunch and employees need in that room often.



Monito
Registered: Jan 28, 2005
Total Posts: 10087
Country: Canada

JimmyStephans wrote: I travel a ton - often for 3-4 weeks at a time. I have to leave a key (and soon an alarm code) with somebody or no work is done while I'm gone.

Great security, alarms, triple deadbolts - none of that would help stop the person if he has key / alarm codes. Heck, anybody with that access could even disable cameras (unless hidden and unknown to anybody but me).


Set up the alarm system so that each employee has their own code. Aim one camera at the entrance so that it sends a signal to a remote or secure location as soon as the entrance is opened.



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

Ian.Dobinson wrote:
a couple of things:

On the gear thats already been lost. have you registered the Body serial numbers with the service that searches the internet for posted images with that number in the exif? i know its easy to remove the exif info but people will always forget. especially if the gear has been sold on and the new owner does not know the history.


Ian, I have never heard of this service. Please post a link or other details so we can all learn more.

Thanks



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

mikeinctown wrote
A friend of an employee? Did they ever bring a friend in?


Not while I have been here.

The 4 year employee - I have never seen any of his friends here, but have gone out with them to his weddings and other events.

The 10 month employee had a girlfriend pick him up once or twice. I also hired his brother in August to help my at a big party (he is a cook) I had for 100+ people at the house. He was in the office a few minutes to help load some table we took there and back.



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

Monito wrote:
Set up the alarm system so that each employee has their own code. Aim one camera at the entrance so that it sends a signal to a remote or secure location as soon as the entrance is opened.


Thats what I was shown. They even have APPs for my phone where I can see whats up of alarm goes off.



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

THANKS - I just wanted to say that.

The discussion is giving me good ideas for sure.

And, for the guys expressing thoughts about the financial blow. I appreciate that - but that happens to be the easy part. Thankfully my silly websites do great and replacement gear has been ordered (plus they left me with plenty of other bodies both times!).

The tough part is knowing its most likely somebody I trusted and have helped outside the office.

The guy I was snowboarding with just 48 hours previous?

The guy I drive home in cold weather?

The guy I talk with almost daily about my silly girlfriend issues?

The girl I just helped through some issues with a DUI and hangs out with my girlfriend? (been here part time for years)

That, my friends, is the tough part - knowing its somebody that is involved and trusted.



Ian.Dobinson
Registered: Feb 18, 2007
Total Posts: 11868
Country: United Kingdom

JimmyStephans wrote:
Ian.Dobinson wrote:
a couple of things:

On the gear thats already been lost. have you registered the Body serial numbers with the service that searches the internet for posted images with that number in the exif? i know its easy to remove the exif info but people will always forget. especially if the gear has been sold on and the new owner does not know the history.


Ian, I have never heard of this service. Please post a link or other details so we can all learn more.

Thanks



Jimmy, sorry I dont know a great deal about these services , but i just remembered a couple of threads on here about them quite a while back.
i searched google withe phrase "trace camera serial number" and got back quite a few different services.

it may be worth PM'ing someone Like Roger of lens rentals. Im pretty sure he would have some experience of tracing stolen bodies.
the shame is that as the exif only has the body serial number there is no way of tracing a stolen lens. but if you can trace the bodies then maybe you can at least get closer to nailing the scumbag that did the crime



garydavidjones
Registered: Sep 20, 2010
Total Posts: 438
Country: United States

Before I retired, I worked in a high-theft environment for years. We kept all value-items
in a closet with a metal door with secure locks. Only I had the keys. Items in the
closet were not visible to anyone. What they don't see, they don't steal.

It is not wise to keep valuables like yours in a room that is used frequently.
for numerous functions such as packing. Do your employees use your camera
equipment? Do they need to know that you have such equipment? If not, hide the equipment in a secure closet. When you remove camera equipment, hide the equipment in "ghetto camouflage."



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

garydavidjones wrote:
Before I retired, I worked in a high-theft environment for years. We kept all value-items
in a closet with a metal door with secure locks. Only I had the keys. Items in the
closet were not visible to anyone. What they don't see, they don't steal.

It is not wise to keep valuables like yours in a room that is used frequently.
for numerous functions such as packing. Do your employees use your camera
equipment? Do they need to know that you have such equipment? If not, hide the equipment in a secure closet. When you remove camera equipment, hide the equipment in "ghetto camouflage."


Thats a fine thought. I will look into those tough steal lockers this week and get a couple. I could replace the shelf that now hold Canon gear with one and the shelf that holds video gear with one. Gear locked away, but access to the room allowed.

Thanks



Rodney O
Registered: Dec 10, 2006
Total Posts: 903
Country: United States

JimmyStephans,

Sorry that you've had this to go thru. In reading the thread, a couple of things come to mind.

You've gotten good advice here on a number of points. But let me add a couple and warn you about a couple of things you seem to want to do which are not really going to help you..

1) I believe you mentioned that there is a lock box outside in which the keys are kept. That is BAD idea. And probably is a good thing to check it and remove the keys. Some alarm companies like to have that for their access, but it is risky. And it should itself be alarmed. But the best idea is to get rid of any unmonitored access to your keys.

2) I most definitely caution you on assuming that an employee is the culprit. Instead recruit them to help in this issue. Otherwise you risk jeopardizing parts or all of your business. Keep your eyes open, but view them as assets in solving the problem.

3) Definitely put the equipment in a separate room. Having your gear in the shipping room just presents a long list of potential issues. One of which is do you know that the stolen stuff was not just packaged up in boxes for a few days and then and simply shipped out? Do the shippers come into your office and maybe to the store-mail room? Do you have a way to check what was shipped out during the time things disappeared?

4) While it's "after the fact" for these incidents, having an easy way to check that your stuff is there might be worth implementing. Like never leaving things in a bag, having standard places where you put specific items, etc... Then you can tell at a glance that things are still there. (and you can see that on your video cameras)

5) Definitely go with a more sophisticated alarm system. And include hidden cameras. And maybe a couple of visible cameras too. It looks like you're getting good alarm system advice, but PM me if you need more info on that.

6) Some of the details that you've mentioned seem to point to a thief who is not "into" cameras. Like maybe the first item taken was shown to a fence who then provided a better shopping list to the thief. That might indicate a casual visitor or part time new employee, or as stated by others maybe a friend of a friend.

While you may not catch the thief, taking steps in response that are visible should reduce your future vulnerability. This is a situation where "action & reaction" is important. The thief took the action and now you are reacting. If you did nothing you would still look like a good target. But if the thief was looking to come back and sees that the situation has changed, you become a less desirable target.

hth
Rodney




gschlact
Registered: Jun 04, 2011
Total Posts: 836
Country: United States

Please do not be insulted by any ideas I offer-
- don't jump to conclusion it is employee, but I would personally interview then so you at least get a gut feel. In fact read up on non-verbal body language especially the eyes when lying
- I'd you do suspect employee with or with out poly, and you are worried about outright firing them, simply cut their hours enough to make then want to quit and coincide with your presence. This should avoid any termination issues.
- you haven't me roomed the cleaning crew?
- also, could you Private Investigator or police dust for finger prints and see if there are any left by non employees?



TeamSpeed
Registered: Dec 17, 2005
Total Posts: 1944
Country: United States

Gun safe and you put all the big ticket items in it when you are traveling? I didn't see where you might have stated that employees need access to camera equipment when you are gone, so if they do, obviously this wouldn't work.



skycolt
Registered: Jul 18, 2012
Total Posts: 286
Country: United States

There are some websites which will search the camera sn hidden in the pics. That may help if some one took picture with your camera and published it on the web.



Breitling65
Registered: May 31, 2006
Total Posts: 5233
Country: United States

JimmyStephans wrote:

I'm offering a $1000 reward for the capture of the person that did this.




May I ask you question? Do you care about stolen gear or person who did this the most? I hope you are not in idea to fight criminal nature this way? Thieves, prostitutes etc will exist as long as humans are, nothing could change this in our life since this is one of our human disadvantages... Same as soft focus in cameras or lenses

Hope you will get your gear back soon anyway!



cgardner
Registered: Nov 18, 2002
Total Posts: 9376
Country: United States

In retrospect you can see you made some really poor decisions regarding the gear storage in a multi-function room, lockbox access to the office, etc. Remedy them, file an insurance claim, write off the rest of the loss, move on.

Very early in my short "pro" career I assisted a Capitol Hill freelance PJ. One day I answered the door, forgetting to check the peep-hole and a very jittery dude with lime green shoes (it was the 70s) stuck a gun in my face and robbed me and the very pissed off boss of cash. On the way out grabbed a bag that was near the door which contained a rare focal plane shutter Hassy and 300mm lens. It's a miracle we didn't get shot that day. I took a job in the suburbs shooting weddings after that... seemed a safer career choice at the time. So like I say don't sweat the material things. Two years later I saw the camera/lens combination for sale in the classifieds, called the PJ and with assistance from the PD he recovered it.

The employees? Assume they are honest until you have hard proof otherwise.

I managed a 140 person publishing center in Manila and over the years I had to fire several employees for theft, but doing so took time and hard evidence.

One was in charge of weighing scrap paper and used printing plates and conspired with the scrap driver to under-weigh and sell it on the side before delivering the load to the scrap vendor. Our records matched the vendors. I discovered it because just before I arrived my predecessor had promoted him to different job: stock clerk for new paper and supplies The new guy in the scrap job was honest and came to me for help because of threats from the driver and other guy. We patiently kept records showing increased sales for 3 months then with that evidence fired him.

Petty thefts of tools and supplies in personal effects was common, despite an armed guard at the main entrance checking outgoing bags. I solved that problem by buying 150 school style Master combination locks that also have key and banned all other personal locks. The employees knew their lockers were subject to inspection at any time. Supply requests went down. Then two months later on a non-work day I used the master key and inspected all the lockers. I only found one guy had squirreled stuff away. I would have fired him to set an example, but he was one of our best pressman. So I talked to him and gave him a "strike two and you're out" warning. With some employee feedback I also set up a procedure were an employee needing a few scrap plates, or other things we sold for projects at home could buy them for a nominal price rather than stealing them..

Our maintenance guys also did minor repairs on our rental houses. They'd send three guys to change a light bulb. I learned it was because if you sent one the maid in the house would accuse them of thefts. What the maids did is hide stuff in some out of way place and wait for their employer to miss it. If they didn't after a few months they'd steal it. The two extra guys need to change the lightbulb went along as witnesses to vouch for the guy on the ladder changing the bulb.

I had a camera guy who I suspected was stealing litho film by hiding it in his clothing. I solved that by tightening the internal controls on supply issue, logging usage on a job basis and personally reviewing the supply slips and doing a monthly inventory.

I like to belive people by nature are honest (due in part to the dishonest role models being in jail) but also know if you give them too much temptation some will succumb to it. If the temptation is there it's a more a failure of management in not having internal controls in place. Yeah it's PITA to sign a log sheet every time you use gear or supplies and to do inventories, but those are the type of internal controls that keep people honest.

In your case since good employees are far more difficult to replace than gear and you only have two you should get past your suspicious and get peace of mind by locking up the gear and controlling access.

An alarm is prudent since you don't already have one, but CCTV is overkill except perhaps on the exterior doors to monitor/record access 24/7. You can buy a complete system at Costco for reasonable price.

Interior hidden cameras to monitor employee activities are overkill and like accusing them of being the thief. Watch the episode of Duck Dynasty where the CEO installed cameras in the shop and you'll rethink that one

Access when you are away? Can the employees perform their tasks at home? If so lock down the office, turn on the alarm and let them telework. If not segregate their work area from the rest of the office with lockable / deadbolted doors. Give others the knob lock (exterior with anti-jimmy feature) if necessary but keep the deadbolt key to yourself. I do that with my rental property. Renters get the knob key from the agent that manages the property, but when I'm there using it I lock the door with the deadbolt so I will not get my stuff ripped off by a former renter or cleaning crew with a duplicate.

Do you know what a "booster box" is? If I was your UPS guy and picked up packages in the store room I'd be tempted to use one. You bring in a box with a false top or side you can open pretending it's a delivery, stick a camera in it when nobody is around, then say "Opps! I grabbed the wrong box off the truck... I'll be right back with the right one."



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

Rodney O,

Thanks for the great suggestions. Some of which are already done most of the time. Example - there was a specific place for the 70-200 in its box. And I would walk past and see that box day after day and know it was there - but without lifting and / or opening it, not easy to tell that somebody had taken the lens out.

As for the lock box outside. Thats now removed - but when I leave town I have to give the employee that uses it a key. He gets key from box or gets key from his pocket - he still has a key or key access 24/7. That box was originally placed there for me. I'm so nutty about locking the door that I had locked myself out a few times.

Later, when I wasn't around the building when an employee was arriving I would give him the combination to get the key and let himself in.

I thought I was being smart because I didn't want him taken the key home on key chain where roommates might have access to it.



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

gschlact wrote:
Please do not be insulted by any ideas I offer-
- don't jump to conclusion it is employee, but I would personally interview then so you at least get a gut feel. In fact read up on non-verbal body language especially the eyes when lying
- I'd you do suspect employee with or with out poly, and you are worried about outright firing them, simply cut their hours enough to make then want to quit and coincide with your presence. This should avoid any termination issues.
- you haven't me roomed the cleaning crew?
- also, could you Private Investigator or police dust for finger prints and see if there are any left by non employees?


Good thoughts...

There is no cleaning crew except myself for this very reason. I didn't want access to the place when I wasn't around.

The police didn't seem interested at all. They didn't even ask for employee names or anything. Very mellow in their approach.




JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

Breitling65 wrote:
JimmyStephans wrote:

I'm offering a $1000 reward for the capture of the person that did this.


May I ask you question? Do you care about stolen gear or person who did this the most? I hope you are not in idea to fight criminal nature this way? Thieves, prostitutes etc will exist as long as humans are, nothing could change this in our life since this is one of our human disadvantages... Same as soft focus in cameras or lenses

Hope you will get your gear back soon anyway!


More interested in finding the person. New gear is easy to order and can arrive in two days.

Not knowing if the people that have been here 4 years, or 1 year, or part time over a couple of years, can be trusted is whats bugging me.



JimmyStephans
Registered: Sep 23, 2004
Total Posts: 137
Country: United States

cgardner wrote:

Access when you are away? Can the employees perform their tasks at home? If so lock down the office, turn on the alarm and let them telework. If not segregate their work area from the rest of the office with lockable / deadbolted doors. Give others the knob lock (exterior with anti-jimmy feature) if necessary but keep the deadbolt key to yourself. I do that with my rental property. Renters get the knob key from the agent that manages the property, but when I'm there using it I lock the door with the deadbolt so I will not get my stuff ripped off by a former renter or cleaning crew with a duplicate.


This is a great thought. Because my space, top floor, had once been three offices, it would be easy to separate the guys from this side - just put one wall back up.

Makes it harder for me to communicate with them when I'm around but seems wise.


cgardner wroteo you know what a "booster box" is? If I was your UPS guy and picked up packages in the store room I'd be tempted to use one. You bring in a box with a false top or side you can open pretending it's a delivery, stick a camera in it when nobody is around, then say "Opps! I grabbed the wrong box off the truck... I'll be right back with the right one."

Good thought. But, in this case, its not an optional suspect. We don't have any deliveries to this building and no signage.

All my mail and packages arrive at a UPS store a few blocks away.

About 90% of our outgoing packages - the small DVD boxes - are sent from the Post Office which is about 200 yards away. Bigger items are sent out by UPS at the UPS store a few blocks away.

This is not a retail or walk-in type place. Doors are actually locked almost all day.

EXAMPLE: Today is January 21st - first three weeks of the year. Outside of the employees the only persons I know of that have been in the office are:

1- Building owner (3 times discussing this matter)
2- First Locksmith (01/02/13)
3- Second Locksmith (01/04/13)
4- Police Officer taking report (01/18/13)
5- New Locksmith (01/18/13)
6- Pizza Guy (01/20/13)
7- CPA (today)

Just a very low traffic location.




Rodney O
Registered: Dec 10, 2006
Total Posts: 903
Country: United States

JimmyStephans,

Glad you found my comments useful. So let me emphasize a couple of things and suggest a couple of additional things for you to consider:

It seems that your actions in regards your concern about the keys were perhaps not exactly the best. It is sounding like you had made yourself more attractive to a thief and certainly more more vulnerable.

Glad you got rid of that lock box. With 2 of you using it, that doubled its activity and the chances for people to see it and watch you open it. And to read the combination over your shoulder. Plus those things are not exactly security level boxes, particularly if it is a push button box.

Items:
1) it looks like your approach to handling the keys led to considerably less security than you had realized. Changing that approach should help a lot. But as it appears your locks have been compromised, you do need to have a good alarm system and possibly new types of locks.

2) this also brings up the question about your "spare keys". Where do you keep them? Since you have been concerned about locking yourself out, you certainly must have spares?

3) door locks: Stop using the door handle lock entirely. Replace it with a door handle with no locking capability. Then ONLY use the deadbolt to lock your door. That way you can not lock yourself out. And maybe add a second deadbolt. One dead bolt with a lever to open & lock it from the inside and the other requiring a key both inside & outside. And don't skimp on the cost of your deadbolts. Check with your locksmith for suggestions. I would suggest only using either drop bolt locks or extended throw deadbolts.

4) what access does your landlord require? Have you talked with them about the break in? If so, what did they say? And what is their key security? Have they had break ins at any other of their properties? Your new alarm system should be set to report all access when ever it is on. That way you will know more about the level of access activity. Some systems will even report entries to your cell phone and ID the specific access code that was used ( #1, #2, etc or by the user name assigned that code.)

5) again let me emphasize that you need to start trusting your employees more. If you trust them to be there while you're not, you should also trust them with being able to handle the keys. If you can't do that then you have to either change employees or come up with a work from home for them as suggested by one poster.

6) Btw video systems can do "missing item" detection. And as you've said, the items must themselves be visible and not in boxes or bags.

As to the police interest:
This is a relatively small $ value crime for them and there was no direct human contact, no personal injury, no physical damage and no evidence of a firearm being involved. Depending on the level of crime in your area, it is likely just a small rain drop for them. So you can't realistically expect very intense actions by them. They can however be a good source of information

Did you ask them about local crime levels local crime types, crime sprees, and for suggestions on improving your security and reducing your vulnerability? And how professional did you come across with them? It would be my guess that if this is an isolated crime, it will be in their eyes harder to solve. And even if it is part of a crime spree, it's likely to only get solved when the thief makes a mistake someplace else. Then the whole spree gets solved. Neither helps you very much.

But you can not expect the police to get too excited about a theft of < $10k of stuff these days. They are probably most valuable to you for the report for your insurance company and as a resource to help you learn what your vulnerabilities are.

One thing that this situation is pointing out is that it is a really good idea to have a security professional come in as a consultant for any business or even your house. They can evaluate your situation, security polices, and physical security very well and pretty quickly. And you get a much better perspective on your vulnerabilities, the current crime in your area as well as realistic recommendations. But do NOT count on an alarm company to give you this for free. They want to sell you something. Use an independent consultant.

hth
Rodney



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