How Safe Are SF Bay Area Camera Crews?

By Kevin Eck 

In the span of one week in September, two San Francisco TV news crews were robbed of their gear while reporting in the East Bay.

In one incident, a photojournalist for ABC-owned KGO had his camera stolen at gunpoint in Alameda. A few days later, an MMJ from NBC-owned KNTV had a camera “pulled out of her hands” while reporting in Oakland.

Those two incidents brought the number of robberies involving Bay Area TV crews to 18 since 2011.

Most of the robberies ended with someone getting hurt. In 2013, a man who tried to steal gear from a KRON crew was shot. Last July, KNTV photographer Alan Waples was pistol whipped during a brazen robbery that happened on-air. And in November 2012 KPIX cameraman Greg Welk was beaten and had his camera taken at the end of a live shot for the CBS-owned station.

While some stations have hired private security to protect crews, we wanted to know what more the stations are doing to protect their employees.

KNTV told us “Our first priority is the safety of our staff. We regularly discuss situational awareness with our news teams. Our journalists have been trained to always be aware of their surroundings and to choose their safety and well-being first, when they are reporting from the field.” ABC, which owns KGO, told us much the same: that the safety of its employees is its top priority.

When we pressed harder and asked for specifics, neither station would elaborate. CBS, which owns KPIX, wouldn’t comment. Neither Media General, which owns KRON, nor Fox, which owns KTVU, got back to us. Neither did NABET, which represents KGO photographers.

“We do know that individuals who commit these acts of robbery, in any city, look for the most opportunistic moments to commit them,” Oakland police PIO Marco Marquez told TVSpy. “It is often assumed that news and reporting crews working in the field have electronic items that are high in monetary value.

“When a robbery occurs in Oakland, investigative information is gathered and shared throughout the police department,” said Marquez. “Such information includes the descriptions of the suspect, suspect vehicle, weapon used, and victim’s loss. Officers in patrol, specialized units, and the investigators are all informed and aware of the incident. This communication is key to giving officers the specific information needed when seeking suspects or being aware of criminal trends in the area.”

Here’s a year-by-year listing of incidents we have reported:
In 2011, KGO crew robbed.

November 2012 – KPIX photographer beaten, has camera stolen at end of live shot in Oakland.

“Oakland has not been kind to the media lately,” according to the Contra Costa Times, this is the eighth such incident since April. “Journalists from the Oakland Tribune, FOX affiliate KTVU and NBC owned station KNTV have had laptops, cameras and tripods stolen, sometimes at gunpoint.”

May – KGO reporter chases men who stole iPhone and broke windows on news van and car of crew’s security guard.

August – KGO crew robbed at gunpoint in West Oakland.

September – In first reported incident in SF, one shot and two arrested in robbery of KRON crew

January – Univision crew pepper sprayed and robbed.

July – KPIX reporter Anne Makovec and photographer Gregg Welk hit again, this time in Fruitvale District

September – KRON reporter Jackie Sissel robbed

September – KTVU reporter Cara Liu beaten up

February – KTVU crew attacked and robbed in Hayward.

July 2, 2015 – KNTV photographer Alan Waples pistol whipped, two cameras stolen from two news crews, one from KTVU one from KNTV.

July 22, 2015 – KTVU news van broken into, tripod and other equipment stolen

February – Crew visiting from WBBM in Chicago robbed in SF shooting video for Super Bowl

July – KRON MMJ Jackie Sissel has camera stolen again.

July 22 – a Pacific Gas and Electric video crew along with some employees were robbed near an Oakland Middle School.

August – The Mercury News reports camera stolen from KTVU

September 19 – KGO photographer has camera stolen in Alameda. It’s later found.

September 23 – KNTV MMJ Raquel Dillon has camera snatched from her hands.