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Don't be a Victim:
Damage and Theft Prevention Tips for Musicians

By Brett McCarron

It's never convenient to discover that your music gear was stolen. It's also horrible to see damage to your prized instrument that could have been prevented. Here are some suggestions to reduce the chance it will happen to you.

  1. Think like a crook. This is the number one tip to reducing your theft exposure. Security professionals (such as yours truly) do this for a living. Let's look at some tips that will have you thinking of ways to keep your gear safe from theft. Remember though: a determined thief cannot always be stopped. The most you can hope for is to discourage the casual crook, and do what my grandfather (a former Chief of Police) referred to as "keeping honest people honest."

  2. Don't display music gear in plain sight at home or in your vehicle. While it was fun to participate in show 'n tell in grade school, it doesn't make sense to have your Les Paul guitar in your living room window, where it is visible from the street to potential thieves. Save your showing off for performances and guitar shows.

    The same applies for music gear stowed in your vehicle. Keep it in the trunk. If it absolutely must be in the passenger compartment, cover it with a blanket. You can buy inexpensive fleece throws, in various colors, at discount and department stores. If your car interior is black or grey, buy a fleece blanket in a matching color. Now a casual observer can't tell what's inside your vehicle.

  3. Buy a second amplifier (or drum set or keyboard or ... ) Keep the heaviest amp (or drum set) at the practice studio. This saves you the time spent each rehearsal that you'd otherwise spend setting up and breaking down. Think about it. Each rehearsal you: unplug the guitar and AC mains cords; slip on a cover (you do use a cover, right?); load the amp in your car; transport the amp from the practice facility to your home; unload the amp from the car (don't be tempted to leave it in your car over night); take off the cover; connect the amp to the AC mains and your instrument.

    Instead, keep one amp set up in the studio, and another at home. You'll save time (you can practice a little later if everyone does this), wear and tear on your amp, your car, and your body! If you do decide to sell your studio amp or instrument, it'll be in better physical condition, which will result in a higher resale or trade-in value.

    How is this theft-related? It keeps away unwanted attention by avoiding the visibility during loading and unloading of gear at your home. It also eliminates the theft possibility due to a car prowl while your instrument is sitting in your vehicle. Needless to say, keep the location of your practice studio and your home a secret!

  4. Don't allow strangers into your home. If you're selling a piece of gear through the local paper or online classifieds, meet the prospective buyer at a location away from your home. This keeps potential thieves away from your music gear. Even if a stranger is honest, he/she may brag to their friends about all the music gear they saw at your house. A better bet is to meet prospective buyers at a nearby Park 'n Ride (car pool) location, church parking lot, public park, library parking lot, or well-lit shopping center, or other convenient location. In tough neighborhoods, go with a friend or band member for added safety.


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