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01/12/2008 – Hotel Security : Keeping Your Valuables Safe
On the road, after a long flight, there are few sights better than a nice comfortable hotel bed.
You walk into your room, you close the door, and you begin to unload your electronics to plug them in. There is a false sense of security when staying at a hotel, especially ‘nice’ hotels. We assume that because our door is locked and we’ve chosen a reputable hotel that our valuables are safe and secure.
Recently I have been reading quite a few stories about photographers, and some business travellers, being theft victims on the road. These hotels include those which most travellers would consider safe, and free from potential theft risks, and include The Ritz-Carlton in Hawaii; the “W” in Manhattan; the Mandarin Oriental in London and the Movenpick in Doha.
On the road I have always tried to travel with bags that don’t scream ‘camera gear.’ I never mention what I do, or what I am carrying, when I check-in, or am in a hotel’s public areas. My camera equipment is not only expensive, it is the reason I travel and it is my livelihood.
Thieves who work in, and around, hotels need to be quick. These thieves need to be able to enter a room and get out immediately. They don’t know when you’ll return, they don’t know when someone else may enter, and they certainly cannot make a commotion. So to protect myself from being a potential risk, should become a target, I use some basic personal security techniques.
1) Never write your room number on your key.
2) If the hotel room keys are without a logo, remove them from the sleeve, that way no one knows where you’re staying. Don’t make a thief’s job easier.
3) When traveling always have your equipment serial numbers accessible. This goes for both computers and cameras Store this information completely separate from your valuables. I store mine in my Blackberry (or the iPhone ‘App’ Packing)
4) When storing gear in your room, try and use hard to access spot when possible, such as directly under the bed. This cuts down on a thief’s ability to quick access your gear, and hotel thieves need to be quick in-and-out. I have also locked my gear to the back of the toilet, which is hard to get behind and access.
5) When leaving gear in your room uses a hard case, such as a Pelican Case or an anti-theft bag protector. When using a Pelican Case I use dual locks and at least two cables for securing the case. . When not traveling with a Pelican Case, look into the PacSafe Anti-Theft Bag Protectors. The PacSafe Anti-Theft Bag Protectors full cover your bags with a hard metal mesh, and they cinch off to keep hands out. I generally lock all the zippers on my bag before placing it in the PacSafe Anti-Theft Bag Protector, and like the Pelican Case I try and lock it to two different places for added security.
In general most thieves do not walk through hotels with bolt cutters. It is very hard to conceal a large set of bolt cutters and they would draw attention.
For those of you who travel with cameras out on your shoulders, as I often do, when you leave the room, take them with you. If your camera is not in the room, it cannot be stolen from the room.
Be smart, be safe, keep a low profile and chances are you’ll never even pop up on a thief’s radar.