Safety in the field is an increasing concern of news crews as violence against journalists grows.
The latest incident affecting a news crew, however, is just the most recent example of a problem just as pernicious and even more perennial. A KPIX reporter and photographer, accompanied by an armed guard, were robbed at gunpoint Sunday. The guard, Matt Meredith, a retired police officer, returned fire after being shot in the leg. Police have made multiple arrests, including of an injured suspect.
Unlike an increasing number of attacks on journalists, there is no indication the crew was targeted for ideological reasons; rather, the armed robbers were motivated by cash.
A target of opportunity, news crews are vulnerable to robbery because of their conspicuous and costly equipment and inevitably divided attention while filming news segments.
We’re thinking of the guard who was injured on duty and of the @KPIXtv crew and team. Hoping for a swift recovery and safety for all working to cover the news in an increasingly dangerous environment. https://t.co/DZPsBG7sj1— RTDNA ▶️ (@RTDNA) February 25, 2019
Interestingly, San Francisco Police report that stolen cameras haven’t appeared in online marketplaces and they’re not sure what the market is for such equipment.
The Associated Press has tracked more than a dozen robberies of San Francisco Bay Area news crews since 2012 and RTDNA has been highlighting the dangers news crews face, particularly in the Bay Area, for nearly a decade, regularly offering advice and training on staying safe.
News crews are far from the only victims of these types of crimes in the Bay Area; rather, these incidents reflect a larger ongoing issue with crime in the area. In fact, in September 2018, a camera crew was robbed while producing a segment on robbery.
Over just one weekend in December 2017, four San Franciscans had their still cameras and equipment stolen from them, including in brazen thefts at knife-point.
“Smash and grab” thefts from vehicles are also rampant, higher in San Francisco than any other major California city.
Violent crime in Oakland, where Sunday’s incident occurred, is down over the last few years, data show, with the exception of thefts from cars.
To avoid being targeted, news crews are traditionally advised to work in daylight hours whenever possible, stick to well-traveled and well-lit areas, leave crime scenes when police do and secure equipment in vehicles. Using smaller, less conspicuous equipment whenever possible can help, too.
The latest incident demonstrates that even the presence of an armed guard does not necessarily deter thieves.
It’s a reminder to put safety first, always. It’s a cue to avoid sending anyone from the news team out alone whenever possible. And it’s an opportunity to thank the behind-the-scenes news teams, security staff and law enforcement working to keep us and our communities safe.