Oakland Tribune photographer Laura Oda was robbed of her laptop and camera Monday after she took pictures of a mural on San Pablo Avenue. On Thursday, a KTVU crew was robbed in the Oakland Hills. The Chronicle reports that this was the latest in a series of robberies of journalists in Oakland.

    KTVU reporter Debra Villalon was sitting in her news van Thursday night, waiting to go on the air with a story about a serious bike crash in the Oakland hills, when several men accosted her and cameraman Alan Leong. 
    “Shoot the bitch!” one yelled as the men pushed their way into the van on Redwood Road and stole Villalon’s laptop computer and workbag, a camera and a tripod. Villalon called for help on her two-way radio as the men drove off, and station officials called Oakland police.
    Villalon and Leong were unharmed but shaken by the incident, one of several crimes in recent weeks in which members of the news media have been singled out in Oakland. 
    Cameras, laptop taken
    The latest holdup was Monday afternoon, when veteran Oakland Tribune photographer Laura Oda was robbed of her laptop and cameras after she took pictures of a mural on San Pablo Avenue near 35th Street. As in the robbery of the KTVU van, police have made no arrests.
    Journalists are no strangers to crime in Oakland. Several vehicles belonging to TV and radio stations were vandalized during recent Occupy Oakland protests, and a KGO-TV cameraman was hit on the head while covering a homicide near the Occupy compound outside City Hall last year. 
    Last year, another KGO-TV cameraman and reporter were attacked and robbed of a camera in East Oakland. Thieves have also broken into news vans parked in Chinatown and near the Coliseum, making off with expensive equipment. 
    “Sometimes you need combat pay to go into Oakland,” said Associated Press photographer Paul Sakuma, president of the San Francisco Bay Area Press Photographers Association. “They’re definitely watching their back more than they used to.” 
    Daylight robberies 
    Oda was robbed during the daytime, as were NBC Bay Area reporter Jodi Hernandez and cameraman Rich Goudeau. The two were working on a story May 14 at San Pablo Avenue near 20th Street when a man ran up, grabbed their camera and tripod, and sped off in a car. 
    “We’ve always felt generally safe covering the Oakland community, especially in the daylight hours,” Hernandez said. “It was pretty rattling to fall victim to such a brazen attack.” 
    The recent string of robberies, she said, “has us constantly on guard now, no matter what time of day or where in town we are.” 
    Officer Johnna Watson, a police spokeswoman, said investigators were “seeing if this is a group of individuals who are targeting media, or if these are just random acts or crimes of opportunity.”
    TV cameras are worth as much as $60,000 apiece, and tripods are about $7,000. There’s speculation among reporters that the gear is being sold on the black market. 
    “These are very big, heavy, broadcast-quality cameras,” said Janice Gin, KTVU associate news director. “The layperson might be able to figure out how to point and shoot. But they wouldn’t know how to maximize the attributes of the camera.”
    Heightened security 
    KTVU, which is based in Oakland, hasn’t “made any changes as to how we cover the news, but clearly we are heightening our security measures,” Gin said. That includes telling crews to give up their gear if confronted. 
    “If a guy wants your stuff, let them have it,” she said. “We certainly believe that life is more important than property.”
Bay Area Media News


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>