IN THE eyes of crooks, a photographer’s sophisticated camera gear is as attractive as a woman’s handbag.
Stories about photographers falling victim to snatch thefts are not unheard of and tales of gadgets stolen from their cars are even more common.
Two weeks ago, Samuel Ong, a photographer with The Star, was attacked in Jalan Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur while returning to his car after an assignment on a Saturday night.
Although it was fortunate that his camera was not taken away, he received four stitches to the head and suffered from dizzy spells later.
With the gadgets easily costing thousands of ringgit, photographers (from the press and the public in general) have every reason to fear for their lives when they walk the streets.
They also have to be on high alert when they are on duty as the robbers and thieves can strike anytime and anywhere.
A few photographers shared their unpleasant experiences with StarMetro.
Khor Meng Siang, 34
It was an ordinary day for the Nanyang Siang Pau photographer who was assigned to cover an inspection of road and drain conditions in Jalan Maarof, Bangsar.
Together with Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and her assistant, the group of journalists and photographers made a few stops along the main road.
“In front of a bungalow-turned-shop, I stepped aside to avoid an oncoming motorcycle.
“However, it sped up all of a sudden and I felt a strong tug on my camera strap. I fell to the ground and my right knee was bruised,” Khor said.
The incident happened within a few seconds and until today, Khor is still suffering pain on his hand.
“It had really hurt my tendons seriously,” he said.
Nelson Lin, 37
It is almost an automatic response to turn your head and look back when you feel a gentle tap on your shoulder.
But China Press photo editor paid dearly when he responded to such a pat early this month.
“It was about 8pm. I was getting into my car after a haircut at Taman OUG in Old Klang Road. I felt someone tap my shoulder, I looked back and received a blow on my nose,” he said.
Before Lin could react, the attacker grabbed hold of his camera bag and pulled it forcefully. He then fled the scene on his partner’s motorcycle. Lin lost his camera, pendrive, memory card, lens, flash, batteries and RM1,000 cash.
Yong Chu Mung, 35
The Guang Ming Daily photographer was mugged at knifepoint last year in Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya.
He was there to have dinner after work. As he was opening the rear door of his car, a robber approached him with a knife and demanded his wallet.
“I surrendered but asked if he could return my identity card. The robber then threw my wallet on the ground, grabbed my camera bag and jumped onto the motorcycle of his accomplice before speeding off.
“The incident was all over in less than 30 seconds,” Yong said.
Yong was lucky. He did not suffer any injuries but it was a lesson well learnt. It had taught him to be more cautious.
“I will only get down from my car after making sure that there are no approaching motorcycles or suspicious characters around.
“I also try not to park my car in dark areas,” he said.
Minaq Jinggo, 48
The photographer had his camera snatched in front of a traffic police at Jalan Kinabalu in Kuala Lumpur last August during an anti-ISA rally.
“A group of photographers were asked to move out from the area. The noise coming from the cars which had started moving (the traffic was earlier at a standstill because of the demonstration) was intense.
“I felt someone tapping me on my shoulder and the next thing I knew, my camera was snatched away,” he said.
Minaq could only watch helplessly as the lone motorcyclist zoomed off with his gear.
Simon Yap, 45
On the third day of Chinese New Year three years ago, Yap was dining out with his family upon his return from a working trip in Indonesia.
“We headed straight to the restaurant from the airport.
“When we returned to the car later, we were shocked to discover that the quarter window at the backseat was smashed and my camera and notebook were missing,” the freelance photographer said.
Fortunately, Yap had already submitted the photos of his trip to his client prior to this return to Malaysia.
“I have always been very careful with my camera. That was the first and last time I left my camera in the car,” he said.
Wong Chee Hon, 41
The Sin Chew Daily photographer’s experience proved that hiding the gear under the seat of a car did not help.
“I got down from my car to take away some dinner in Taman Megah in November or December last year. In that short period of between five and 10 minutes, my car window was smashed and my camera was gone,” he said.