Epidemic of Camera Robberies

FTVLive has been telling you for months that thugs have been stealing cameras from Bay Area News Crews.

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The NY Times has just figured that out.

The Times writes that in recent months, journalists covering crime and other stories here have themselves become victims of crime, robbed of expensive cameras, sometimes at gunpoint.

In less than a year, every major television news station in the Bay Area has been a victim, some more than once. One experienced newspaper photographer has lost five cameras.

In the most brazen episode, a group of men punched a KPIX-TV cameraman last November while he was filming at midday in front of an Oakland high school. The robbers fled with his camera while it was still recording. Viewers saw the reporter sign off and then an inexplicably wobbly image.

Robberies and assaults are changing the way journalists report in Oakland. Armed, plainclothes security guards sometimes accompany news crews on pieces, even mundane ones. Some camera crew members are refusing to take assignments in Oakland at night. And while crime provides the daily drama for much of the local television news, reporters are spending less time on the street and more time at the Oakland police department. Once the police leave a crime scene, television crews depart as well.

“We’re not going to go door to door anymore,” said a television reporter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his station would not authorize him to speak publicly. The union representing many of the journalists, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, is calling for safety measures that include security guards, security cameras on news vehicles and GPS devices in cameras. It has also sent a reminder to news stations that crews can “refuse dangerous assignments when appropriate.”

“It’s frightening and a disservice to our communities that need the information reporters are gathering,” said Pam Moore, an anchor at KRON, a news-focused television station. “There was a time when reporters were considered off-limits.”

Aaron Pero, news director at KRON, says he now routinely sends two reporters to assignments in Oakland, although his video journalists usually work alone. For some pieces, the station also sends a security guard. Mr. Pero said that he knew he was “not maximizing our resources,” but that the safety of his employees was his No. 1 concern.

Tom Raponi, vice president and general manager at KTVU, based in Oakland, said, “We’ve told our crews, ‘No live shot is worth putting yourself in danger.’ ”

Read the rest from the NY Times