At the end of May Shoot Blue was the latest broadcast rental company to be the victim of a robbery when a gang of six masked robbers forced the door and attempted to steal camera equipment including Shoot Blue’s Red Epic digital camera.
The raid was just the latest in a series of robberies at rental houses with Arri Media, AimImage and Post Factory all suffering break-ins. Many in the sector are expressing concern at what they believe is an upswing in the number of increasingly violent robberies.
Shift 4 MD Alex Trezies said: “Robberies appear to be regular and on the rise, with the thieves becoming more bold in their tactics.”
In attempt to stem the tide the rental companies and their representative body the Association of Studio and Production Equipment Companies (Aspec) are cooperating to produce a White Paper designed to promote security, share best practice and reduce the current spate of robberies and fraud.
The White Paper is expected to cover how to make your business physically more secure, iron out weaknesses that can be exploited and recommend working practices which will make staff less vulnerable to violent crime.
VMI MD Barry Bassett helped to set up a rental company network where information on theft and fraud is exchanged and is a supporter of the White Paper initiative. “You can’t prevent robberies and burglaries but you can be very well prepared and make it very hard for them,”  said Bassett.
“In 2008, after a spate of burglaries and attempts, we had a £350K loss where six guys armed with Kalashnikovs overpowered a technician, beat and tied him up, before making off with one of our vans and a large haul.”

“Happily, our tracking system and CCTV worked and they were caught and put away for 9 years.”

The run of insurance claims heavily impacted on [the business and was a wake up call for co-directors Bassett and Kevin Oaten. “We radically changed our working practices, and got staff trained in security measures by the flying squad and moved to more secure premises.”

“Now we have a very sophisticated security system within the building, which is situated in a secure compound with 24 hour security, contained by an external nine foot steel perimeter fence. 

Shift-4 has foiled two robberies in recent years, with one security guard held up at gunpoint, as the company’s steel shutters were ram-raided.
“They got nothing as all our security measures kicked in,” says Alex Trezies, who has made the company more secure with 24-hour security on a gated estate, a smoke cloak, incapacity alarm, personal/panic alarms for staff members, CCTV, police call out and triple locked shutters.
“Now we have secure rooms inside the building for expensive gear, which are locked and completely isolated within the building so even if you get in you’ll never get them open.”
Since setting up of the rental network, the number of attempted robberies and frauds haven’t fallen, hire companies are becoming increasingly security savvy and better and protecting themselves. Says Bassett: “The rental firms have had a much better time since we set this up our network. All broadcast hire companies now talk to each other and exchange information.”

“We take it very seriously because insurance costs are so high and can skyrocket if you are not pro-active in reducing risk. You can end up with bad claims history and your payments become very high, very quickly.”

Following the Shoot Blue break in industry insurers Allan, Chapman and James issued the following advice: “Continued vigilance is very important. We would urge all facilities companies to review physical security measures and ‘lone working practices’ after working hours.”

David Wood

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