After violent camera robberies, a number of photographers plan to stay away from San Francisco

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ByDion Lim via KGO logo
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
After violent robberies, photographers plan to stay away from SF
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Professional photographers say they do not have plans to shoot in San Francisco again amid violent camera equipment robberies.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Days after a terrifying attempted robbery at gunpoint where a photographer wrestles with masked men to keep his camera gear, other photographers are speaking out, declaring they no longer will hold photoshoots in San Franciso.

The Dallas-based photographer targeted in the attack the afternoon of on November 9, did not want to be identified but says he was pistol-whipped and was "freaked out" and tried to console the wedding party where "the bride was crying the whole time."

That same day, another photographer's belongings were stolen at gunpoint at the same location...on the very same day.

VIDEO: EXCLUSIVE: 2 photographers attacked in separate incidents the same day outside Palace of Fine Arts

These cases and a number of incidents ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim covered in recent years highlight the dangers for professional photographers shooting in popular tourist destinations in San Francisco.

One of the most frightening includes a video, used in the police investigation from March shows a Canadian crew that was robbed of $35,000 in equipment near Twin Peaks. In 2021, a photographer named Louis Chan was taking images at the Golden Gate Bridge and followed more than 40 miles to his home in Fremont, to be robbed at gunpoint.

A number of photographers have since commented on Lim's social media saying they don't have plans to shoot in the city again.

VIDEO: Video shows driver robbed while in San Francisco traffic

One woman tweeted: "I shot here (the Palace of Fine Arts) many times and always felt lucky to leave unscathed. I even had it on my website for a while that I will no longer do SF (San Francisco) weddings. Even turned one down in 2021. Theft, parking issues and other logistics just made it not even worth it."

Jefferson Graham, a photographer and writer who lives in Southern California, travels to the Bay Area often for photo and video shoots. "I've heard from photographers who say they don't do on professional shoots without a guard," he said.

VIDEO: EXCLUSIVE: NY documentary filmmaker's gear stolen in smash-and-grab robbery in SF's Japantown

While there are no statistics available on the number of photographers targeted for their equipment, San Francisco police confirm they have officers who frequent hot spots for criminal behavior, such as the Palace of Fine Arts. The most recent statistics for that area show a 10.5% drop in robberies in 2021.

VIDEO: EXCLUSIVE: Fremont photographer robbed at gunpoint after being followed 40 miles from SF

Graham, who also runs a YouTube channel about travel photography called PhotoWalksTV, has written extensively about photographer safety and has even changed his own habits while working in the city.

"I run around all over San Francisco taking pics on a smartphone, the video is comparable to my $2,500 Sony. I'm not as attractive to thieves."

SFPD confirms to ABC7 News they are analyzing evidence to positively identify the suspects in the recent Palace of Fine Arts cases.

VIDEO: Popular Aussie singer held at gunpoint, robbed of $30K gear in SF's Marina District

In the meantime, Graham and nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition lobbying for camera manufacturers to install tracking devices inside the gear.

"Let's hope there are some changes made because San Francisco is the most photographable city in the United States of America," says Graham.

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