Is San Francisco really that bad?

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ymc226

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Wife wants to plan a road trip to San Fran and of course I want to take a film camera. Not searching for bad news specifically, but just watching normal news and visiting various photo blogs/forums, San Fran keeps popping up when reports of robberies of "expensive" photo equipment happen in broad daylight, in public areas which would be considered normal neighborhoods. There was even a forum post I think at Rangefinder forum of a city native ending up in a mildly dangerous situation just taking pictures around town.

My initial desire to take a silver MP or M4, both in as new condition, is tempered by the fact, they look "expensive" and do not obviously look like non-digital cameras. There was also the recent large scale robbery of the San Francisco Leica store so Leicas do not fly completely under the radar. I know I shouldn't live in fear but going to a unfamiliar place makes me more cautious. I am used to a large population of homeless, some with obvious mental disease, when taking pictures around my home town; on the beach, pier, Venice boardwalk etc. I've also lived in NYC, walk the streets there with awareness and love all the photo opportunities that exist there so am not totally paranoid in urban environments. San Francisco just seems special. What do the people who actually live there think?
 

rorye

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I photograph regularly in San Francisco. It's a tricky thing, like anywhere you really want to be aware of your surroundings. The current trend in camera theft seems to be hitting tourist spots but it's in other neighborhoods too. Last week I was photographing at the Legion of Honor and a car pulled right up next to me and did a smash and grab on the car in front. It took about ten seconds. Most often I'm out with a view camera and just get funny looks but when I'm out with a digital camera I'm more cautious. It's too bad because it's a beautiful city to photograph.
 

ags2mikon

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I do not live there but have visited a few times back in the 70's and based on the news reports it has changed a lot. And not for the better. As to loosing a camera and lens, it can be replaced but you can't. Your personal safety has to be kept first and foremost in mind. It seems that things are getting more volatile not just in SF. but in all large cities. Even small towns are beginning to have problems. Before I retired I was required to travel to large cities and I really didn't worry very much, but I think that we have entered a new era, and I am glad I don't have to deal with it. All I can say is be very cautious. My son has a saying, play stupid games win stupid prizes.
 

eli griggs

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This is the time to spend a few weekends searching out thrift, commisioned and restores for point and shoots of all kinds, to carry, instead of first quality cameras and lenses, or simply a Barnack, Leica, Canon, or FED, with good, non Leica lenses.

Just dump them into a baby changing bag or shaving kit, with your favorite film, filters, inexpensive meter and have narry a worry about giving them up to a thief.

A good, Gitzo style aluminum monopod, (twist locks, no protruding bracket locks), as a in-hand photo aid and a snatch and grab deterrent should help, together with a very, very bright "defensive" flashlight, which should keep dogs and other tourist, etc off you and away from your immediate presence.

The more I see of robberies of camera kit, the more I believe concealed carry permits are needed, with some good training, or in having several fit, photography club members meet up for a day of shooting; especially if you want to shoot in questionable areas with good kit.

Cheers,
Eli
 

Two23

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I've avoided SF since my cousin was robbed there by a gang of five drug addicts at knife point three years ago. Many of these large cities don't even seem to have a police force left. Six years ago I had a Nikon D800E stolen out of my hands on the Chicago subway on the downtown loop. Police didn't even come to take the report. I haven't been back since. Two years ago while visiting Seattle we stayed in a hotel in the tourist district. A couple in the lobby were giving a report to police about being beaten and robbed a few blocks away. While taking that report a couple of women walked in and told police they had been hit with a 2x4 and robbed. This was in 2019 when Seattle actually had police. It's worse now. We just stay in Bellevue and Redmond.


Kent in SD
 

ags2mikon

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@ely griggs makes a good point. Some of those older Minolta hi-matics, Canon ql 17's produced fantastic images and if it was stolen you wouldn't be out much. I have a CCL and still don't risk going some places. I just don't want to ever have to use lethal force for a darn picture.
 

mshchem

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Right now it's the Pacific cyclones that are hammering the crap out of the west coast. Enough already.

I walked all over San Francisco taking pictures the last I was there, 15+ years ago. I would leave my fancy cameras at home on business trips and carry a great old Pentax Spotmatic and 50mm lens. Don't go out carrying an expensive outfit.

No matter where you are there's psychos. At least in California there's great things to do. 😊
 

wiltw

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2023-01-10_Car_Break-In_Map_Vehicle_Burglary_Tracker_for_San_Francisco.jpg


San Francisco is pretty bad, it is an unshowered armpit now...it used to not be that way! I used to be proud to say I went to college there, and 4 generations before me were born there.
Above shows data about locations, for the past 30 days!
  • I think that in 2017, there was a vehicle break-in every 15 mins. in the first 10 months of that year.
  • In Nov 2021, NBC News claimed tje statistic was that San Francisco averages 74 car break-ins per day....one every 19.5 mins!
  • In Dec 2021, CBS News reported that 3000 break-in occurred in one month.
Primarily happening near tourist hotspots, particularly when valuables are visible inside and people are expected to be pre-occupied for even a few minutes by the tourist attraction. But during COVID international visitor traffic fell off dramatically, break-ins moved beyond traditional tourist spots. Thieves get away with car break-ins more than 98 percent of the time, according to District Attorney’s Office, because break-ins can happen in less than 10 seconds...cops cannot get there fast enough! And the crime has moved OUTSIDE of SF, to other tourist hotspots. And the theft of photography gear from professionals started to be too regular. Among the stories...
  • A story in Feb 2021 was about a pro photographer who was watched while on the job...they followed him after he left, and at a traffic light where he was stopped and could not get away, they jumped out and broke in to steal his gear while he was inside!
  • In Mar, 2022 a Canadian film crew was robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco’s Twin Peaks parking lot. Two men attacked them from a car, and estimated that gear worth $35,000 was taken
  • In Nov. 2022, a photographer was taking wedding portraits at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco when two armed assailants attempted to grab the camera bag.
"San Francisco has always been a city where you don’t leave your stuff in the car or your bags visible,” says Laurent. “…the potential of being burglarized as you are using the camera has increased. We didn’t think about this eight years ago or even five years ago.”​
2023_01_10_22_Crime_in_SF_looking_like_pre_COVID_levels_except_for_car_thefts.jpg
 
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madNbad

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Buy a Nikkormat. They’re plentiful and cheap. No big loss if it’s stolen and makes a good cudgel if you’re threatened.
 

beemermark

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Buy a Nikkormat. They’re plentiful and cheap. No big loss if it’s stolen and makes a good cudgel if you’re threatened.
Better yet, just avoid the area. The loss of a cheap (or even expensive) camera is no big deal. Being mugged and beaten (or worse) is far greater than the loss of personal stuff.
 

blee1996

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I live less than 30 min drive from downtown SF for over 20 years, and still love to go to the city every few months to take photos. It is really a lovely city, and with caution it is still doable safely. The area and time are most important. I'm average height and reasonably fit, and looks more engineer than military. My recent few solo photos trips:
  • Early October 2022, Presidio, Golden Gate Beach, Crissy Field, Sunday afternoon. Appears to be very safe, lots of kids and family, joggers, beautiful day with Golden Gate bridge and Alcatrez in the background. I was carrying Nikon D810 full spectrum converted dSLR and 24-120 lens, so a pretty big and obvious rig. Nobody paid any attention to me.
  • May 2022, Union Square area, work day in early afternoon. The tourists were slowly getting back, most shops have gotten rid of the wooden board, but foot traffic is still quite light. You still have the usual homeless and addicts, but they tend to be a tad angrier than before. I was using Olympus 35 SP compact camera on wrist strap and school daypack, and felt quite stealth.
I hope to return to Mission and Castro for some seedier and more colordul photos, in the near future when things stabilize a bit more. My last time trekking there was almost 10 years ago, and enjoyed it. Haight Ashbury will be cool as well. But some areas I will probably avoid, such as Tenderloin and SOMA. And I never get too interested in Fisherman's Wharf or China Town for photography.
 

madNbad

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It’s not just San Francisco but all of the major, and many minor, west coast cities. Portland is still trying to recover from a hundred nights of protests in 2020, COVID lockdowns, a flood of cheap, powerful meth that can cause psychos or at the very least, drive abhorrent behavior. There are great areas to visit and some to be avoided. Be aware of your surroundings, stay around other tourists and wear your camera strap across your body. None of this will be going away anytime soon but the only way to fix it is to let the local leaders see visitors are willing to come back.
 

Philippe-Georges

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Cover your camera with some gaffer tape (not duct tape as this leaves nasty glue rests) in a messy way, particularly the brand's logo, so it looks like a DIY repaired camera...
And an end of a rope for a neck strap...
Add to that an even messy wardrobe so you look like a poor guy having fun snapping some pictures (perhaps 'they' might propose you a trip too).
 

Steven Lee

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Since we're sharing personal experiences... I live nearby and have been exposing about 20 rolls per year on the streets of SF since about 2012, usually on weekends. My most frequently used gear is the Leica M7 + 50mm Summarit.
 

madNbad

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Tech heavy cities like San Francisco and Seattle lost a lot of the workforce to the remote office and they’re not coming back anytime soon. This has impacted the vitality of the core area as much as the nightly parade of streets lined with tents on the evening news. It’s the small business that need the foot traffic and it’s the small businesses that will help revitalize the downtown’s. Go, take some photos, have lunch and maybe buy something unexpected.
 

logan2z

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I live an hour south of SF and used to drive up to the city nearly every weekend to take street photos. I used a Leica and had no qualms about doing it. But I stopped going during the pandemic and the recent increase in crime has deterred me from going back.

If you do go, I would heed the advice of others and take an inexpensive P&S camera and carry it in your pocket, rather than wandering around with a Leica in plain view. No need to invite trouble.
 

momus

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It's been a while since I lived there, but I've visited recently and keep up w/ what's going on. The Tenderloin is obviously a bad area, I would avoid it as well as parts of the Mission. Homelessness in S.F. (and places like Portland) has gotten very, very bad. It's deplorable, and never should have been allowed to get to it's current condition. COVID had a lot to do w/ that, but I don't even recognize a lot of the city now. Be careful even on Market street if using flashy photo gear because crime has risen. The air tends to be very diffused, so expose for that. Keep photo gear well hidden is my advice.

S.F. has always had a lot of unstable individuals on the streets and there is a LOT of hard drug use and street dealing, but it's sorta been like that for a long time, just gotten worse. A beautiful city in areas, but be alert to your surroundings and stick to North Beach, Chinatown, parts of SOMA etc. The buses can often be packed to the rafters and some routes can feel like rolling psyche wards, I stuck to BART, Uber, Lyft.
 
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BrianShaw

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Good grief… some of these folks must not have ever been to Santa Monica!
 
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I was in Manhattan yesterday and noticed that windshield washers were out shaking down drivers in one area. I hope that's not coming back. The police put a stop to that years ago and made the place safer. Not that I worry much. While my wife was busy in the building, I was asleep in my parked car in a No Standing zone. Locked the doors of course.
 

guangong

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Cover your camera with some gaffer tape (not duct tape as this leaves nasty glue rests) in a messy way, particularly the brand's logo, so it looks like a DIY repaired camera...
And an end of a rope for a neck strap...
Add to that an even messy wardrobe so you look like a poor guy having fun snapping some pictures (perhaps 'they' might propose you a trip too).

I was in Manhattan yesterday and noticed that windshield washers were out shaking down drivers in one area. I hope that's not coming back. The police put a stop to that years ago and made the place safer. Not that I worry much. While my wife was busy in the building, I was asleep in my parked car in a No Standing zone. Locked the doors of course.

The end of the windshield washers was one of the annoyances that ended with the election of an anti crime mayor. Different situation today where even violent criminals are immediately released with no bail, often bragging about how many times they have been arrested in recent weeks. I live across the river in NJ, where life is quite different, so NYC’s present lawlessness is not fate, but self imposed. Same for Chicago, SF, etc.
 
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The end of the windshield washers was one of the annoyances that ended with the election of an anti crime mayor. Different situation today where even violent criminals are immediately released with no bail, often bragging about how many times they have been arrested in recent weeks. I live across the river in NJ, where life is quite different, so NYC’s present lawlessness is not fate, but self imposed. Same for Chicago, SF, etc.

I live in central NJ where it's safer. But I have to go to NYC fairly often and enjoy it nonetheless. After all. I am an ex-New Yorker. There's nothing like NYC especially if you like street photography. Always something going on. It's exciting. If I remember, next time I'll shoot pictures of the windshield washers and post them here. I'll give them a tip if my windshield comes out OK. And for the pictures. :smile:
 

Andrew O'Neill

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I live in central NJ where it's safer. But I have to go to NYC fairly often and enjoy it nonetheless. After all. I am an ex-New Yorker. There's nothing like NYC especially if you like street photography. Always something going on. It's exciting. If I remember, next time I'll shoot pictures of the windshield washers and post them here. I'll give them a tip if my windshield comes out OK. And for the pictures. :smile:

Tokyo is way more interesting visually for some street snaps. And it's safe. Very safe. No windshield washers though 😄
 
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