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Don’t advertise; get rid of all the bumper stickers on your car that relate to a piece of musical gear you own. It’s like saying, “This car contains any of the following: Ampeg, Fender, Mesa/Boogie, and more. Please come inside and look for yourself.” Vans and trailers are often a target for thieves, as well. The best theft prevention tactic I’ve ever seen was a band that had a white van and matching trailer. They had a set of commercial magnets made up with the logo of a fake business, “Phil’s Port-o-John Maintenance and Cleaning.” I doubt any thief would want to break into one of those trucks.
Put as much gear in the trunk of your car as you can. It’s out of sight, which means it’s out of mind. If you have to put something in the back seat of your car, then camouflage it. Get a drop cloth or bed sheet that’s close to the same color as your car’s interior. DO NOT use an old sheet with those ’70s-style flowers or cartoon trains on it. You want to NOT draw the eye to the back seat of your car. If you have any trash in your car, old newspapers, fast food wrappers, throw those on top of the cloth. Anything that says, “There’s nothing in here for you, move along” will keep dirtbags from window shopping. Nothing should get left in the car overnight; at 2:30 in the morning it is a pain to load everything back into your house, but if it gets lifted, you’ll be hurting even more so.
Make a sticky label with your contact info on it and hide it inside your guitar. On a Strat, hide it on the under the tremolo cavity plate. On a Les Paul, under the truss rod cover. They’re both easy to access without removing the strings. If it comes up missing, it’s an easy way to prove it’s yours. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your gear’s serial numbers. Take photos of your items and upload them to Flickr, Facebook or Photobucket. If you’re on the road, it’ll be easy to access them on a mobile device, and get copies to the authorities quickly.
Here’s where you should put those bumper stickers: guitar cases, road cases, amps, etc, and make it able to be recognized across a dark room. Make your gear stick out any way you can. Everyone has black cases, mic stands and gig bags, and it’s easy for someone to grab the wrong one during load out without even knowing – especially in a dark club. If you’re in the market for road cases, bright colors might be the way to go. Keep an eye on your stuff, but keep it out of sight of prying eyes, and be smart. If someone wants something bad enough, no lock can stop them, but casual thieves can be lazy and opportunistic – don’t give them the opportunity! Put one or two small hurdles between them and your gear; they’ll move on to an easier score.
THEFT PREVENTION CHECK LIST:
• Don’t advertise your gear on bumper stickers
• Consider dressing your band’s van/transportation to make it unappealing
• Place valuables in the trunk, cover exposed gear with sheets that match your vehicle’s interior
• Hide your contact info in the cavity of guitars and other instruments
• Take photos of gear and serial numbers, and upload to social media sites for easy access on the road
• Decorate generic-looking cases and gear when on the road, so other bands don’t mistakenly walk off with your stuff after a gig
photo by Flickr user Kafziel