A gigging musician – who also happens to be a deputy sheriff – gives advice on what you can do to prevent music instrument theft.
This post on preventing music instrument theft was written by Jerry Cress for GearTrack’s blog. Reprinted with permission.
When you buy music instruments and gear, three things you should do right away to help you recover your equipment if it is ever stolen include:
1. Have the original owner, if you buy from a private seller, provide you with documentation to this effect: “On this date (insert date), I sold (insert equipment), serial # (insert serial number), to (your name) for the amount of (insert price).”
2. Look into all the details of your home and car insurance policies. Our drummer bought a cargo trailer to haul all our stuff in. When checking with his insurance company, he found that the trailer was covered, as well as the contents inside that were his – but the rest of the band’s equipment wasn’t. Spend some money on instrument insurance, and get the stuff covered.
3. Make sure you keep a record of every piece of equipment you have. Everything! As a police officer, if I find your BOSS Delay Pedal in the back seat of a car, chances are the driver knows where your Strat is, too.
Lock your doors
Most thieves are, generally speaking, lazy. They go for the easiest prey. Therefore, a locked door will make most “amateur” thieves move on to easier targets, and in my experience, there are actually very few “professional” thieves. Most are what we call “snatch-and-go.”
Keep a clean car
Never unnecessarily leave your gear in a vehicle. As soon as you get to your destination, unload it. Don’t leave your guitar, drums, or keyboards on the back seat where everyone walking by can see them while you’re inside the bar looking for where all the power outlets are.
Stay out of the dark
Don’t park your van, bus, or trailer in the back lot of a seedy motel or club. Park it under lights, and as close to the venue as you can. Check on it occasionally. When you’re in the venue playing the gig and all your extra stuff is out in your vehicle, don’t park way out in the back lot to make room for patrons. The “bad guys” can hear you from the parking lot – they know you’re busy! Check on your vehicles during breaks.
Work as a team
Never leave your stuff unattended when loading or unloading for the gig. We always have one of our wives stand by the trailer and one stand in the venue while we load and unload. It only takes a couple of seconds for someone to walk by your trailer, grab a guitar case and be gone. Also, as a general rule, we don’t let bar staff or “fans” help us load or unload.
Re-think your rehearsal space
Think about where and how you practice. Sure it’s cool to be out in the buddy’s garage with the door open, jammin’ real loud and having some fun. But you’re advertising what you have and where you are. Everyone in the neighborhood now knows that there is a Marshall stack and a Gibson Les Paul right down the street. I personally know three garages in my district that have full PA gear, drums, and lights sitting in them right now, all because I’ve been to the house for noise complaints, or just drove by on patrol while they happen to be practicing.
Which brings up another point: Most garages are easy to break into. They usually have very flimsy locks and lots of windows with single pane glass. And the garage doors themselves aren’t usually locked. Automatic garage door openers will give under very little force. They’re designed that way in case of emergency.
If you practice in a garage, take the time and money to install good locks (deadbolts), and cover the windows. Don’t store gear in the garage. I know it’s a pain to haul all that stuff, but what would you rather do, haul the stuff, or not have it at all?
Cover your windows
Don’t leave your windows uncovered. Blinds or curtains can go along way in deterring theft. You don’t want people from the outside knowing what you’ve got on the inside.
Invest in lights and alarm systems
Burglars hate light. Outside lighting is one of the best investments you can make, and motion-activated lighting is very effective. Many alarm systems are pretty reasonable in price. I recommend going with a system that is monitored and notifies the appropriate agency if the alarm is activated. Outdoor lighting and alarm systems can actually lower your house insurance premiums. Check with your insurance company.
GearTrack is an online registry that aims to deter music instrument theft and aid in recovery. Instrument owners can itemize their collections and victims of theft can send stolen alerts to the WatchDog network and access tools for search and recovery. Buyers and sellers can easily search serial numbers before trading and selling their gear. Learn more and register your instruments at Gear-Track.com.
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