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Unofficial Travel Advisory: Puerto Rico


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#1 echeng

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 10:21 AM

There has been a lot of discussion here on Wetpixel about losing equipment while travelling through Puerto Rico's Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (SJU) in San Juan. We have received confirmation that thieves at the airport are continuing to target both topside and underwater camera gear in checked baggage. If you travel with expensive gear, please use caution when deciding on a route that goes through Puerto Rico. I myself decided some time ago that I will not fly through Puerto Rico again until the crime ring is caught.

If you were a victim of luggage theft, please report your loss to the authorities and do not post anything here on Wetpixel that may jeopardize any ongoing investigations that may be taking place.
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#2 LChan

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 12:01 PM

thanks for the warning.

this is going to be a even bigger problem, especially if we have to start checking in our carryons.
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#3 dmoss

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 12:17 PM

The authorities that Eric refers to actually means one person. If anyone has been a victim of theft at San Juan, please PM Eric or myself and we will give you the contact information to report the incident to. Reporting thefts to the wrong people has, in the past, complicated the investigation.
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#4 StephenFrink

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 12:20 PM

It seems the thieves are quite knowledgeable about the value of the gear they are stealing. For example, Seacam is often targeted, and they know enough to grab S180 viewfinders and superdomes, while leaving less expensive accessories behind. This is not casual smash and grab, but either "theft to order" (like with high end cars), or thieves with efficient fencing capabilities.

Beware.
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#5 jcfig

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 12:23 PM

Well being originally from Puerto Rico I have to say this is extremely embarrassing, yet not at all surprising. Next time I go visit I'll be sure to ship any camera gear to my folks ahead of time.

#6 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 12:58 AM

What surprises me is that give how specific the stolen items are surely they must be relatively easy to trace when they reappear for sale.

Alex

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#7 DeanB

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 02:40 AM

A slight deviation,

A friend of mine once told me that in Newcastle (UK) there was a gang of thieves who used to steal motorbikes to order. If you wanted it back you put the word out and buy it from them :guiness:

Weird I know but at least you got your bike back in one piece..

World gone mad :blink:

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#8 Rocha

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 09:49 AM

I really don't understand why those guys weren't arrested yet. I remember the victims first contacted the FBI more than a year ago, and they even had the ID of the guy who was selling their gear on e-bay...

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#9 dmoss

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 07:36 PM

Luiz,
One of the problems was that the FBI wasn't the only one that the victims contacted.
For all we know, the guy that everyone figured out was selling stolen goods at that time may be behind bars. That was last October. Keep in mind this theft ring has been going on for many years. They are smart and they have a lot of players involved. Not just one guy. We just need to be very cautious on what information we post in a public forum, and hope that they are stopped soon.
David
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#10 Dive Rat

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 08:30 PM

I have been through there once with no problems, but I didn't have my camera yet. I always carry-on my photo gear now.

Are these theives targeting other dive gear or just camera gear?

#11 Kasey

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Posted 14 August 2006 - 05:13 PM

Nothing is safe through PR, jewelry, dive gear, bikes. Camera equipment is disproportionately at risk, though. I usually check dive gear but my gear looks like hell and wouldn't be worth much to a thief. Even my Ti Atomic Regs look worthless at this point!
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#12 Valda

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 07:58 AM

If the theft racket in SJU is targeting specific gear and leaving other gear alone can anyone maybe give a list of what is hot and what is not for us unfortunate souls who live in the islands who have no choice but to travel through SJU.
I fly through in Sept and have a D200 aquatica housing with ikelite strobes etc plus an ikelite video housing plus scuba gear which is too much for 2 travellers to take on as hand luggage so we have no option but to check some of our gear.
I fear I will become a statistic and will arrive in Fiji with no gear!
Any suggestions?

#13 ChrisJ

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 11:08 AM

valda,

there have been a great many suggestions on how to "camoflauge" your gear. one thing that always comes up is stop using pelicans (or storm cases)
i just use a regular samsonite to move my dive gear & housing. i always carried on my camera/ lenses/ strobes.
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#14 randapex

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Posted 17 August 2006 - 12:28 PM

Jeez, I was also hoping the traffic generated several months back here would help. It did bother me when we were asked to stop posting information here as it was impeding the investigation. My thinking was and is, why not let everyone know these a-holes are stealing gear and putting it on Ebay. Obviously, keeping it quiet isn't helping.

I've been thourgh SJU twice a few months ago with no problems But I've started packing in such a way as to not draw attention to my gear. For obvious reason, I won't post that here.

Rand
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#15 dmoss

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 12:22 PM

In the past few months I have been trying to get a response from Homeland Security in San Juan to my emails requesting any kind of update in their investigation. Since a federal gag order was imposed some time ago, no information could be given out.

Today I received a PM from one of Reef Photo's customers asking who to contact as this person had some equipment stolen at SJU. Ryan had steered him to me for help. I gave him the contact information and also sent another e-mail to Homeland Security asking for an update and advising of the newest theft. I, like many of you, found it hard to understand why the thefts were still common after we had all but taken the authorities by the hand and led them to the person we were pretty sure was involved. It became pretty obvious that the thieves were reading the Wetpixel postings. Eric then agreed to pull the thread. Some information I received led me to believe that my name was known to some people that I didn't particularly want to run into. I started looking over my shoulder quite a bit...and stopped posting here about the topic.

At any rate...I finally got a response today after my e-mail to our contact person.

"Good Morning Sir:
In response to your e-mail I am very happy to inform you that one arrest has been made regarding the thefts. Regarding the investigation it is still on going and we are hoping to make more arrest in the near future."

So, although we should still use caution to protect our equipment while traveling thru SJU..it appears that some positive developments have taken place.

As before..be careful what we post and PM me if you know of any new thefts. Thanks Ryan for pointing your customer to us for help. And besides...he is now a registered member. :blush:

Edited by dmoss, 20 September 2006 - 01:31 PM.

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#16 jsmoriss

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 09:09 AM

If the theft racket in SJU is targeting specific gear and leaving other gear alone can anyone maybe give a list of what is hot and what is not for us unfortunate souls who live in the islands who have no choice but to travel through SJU.
I fly through in Sept and have a D200 aquatica housing with ikelite strobes etc plus an ikelite video housing plus scuba gear which is too much for 2 travellers to take on as hand luggage so we have no option but to check some of our gear.
I fear I will become a statistic and will arrive in Fiji with no gear!
Any suggestions?


Here's an idea:

http://www.mvpix.com...yon-review.html

BTW, I was the guy that found his stuff on eBay last year after going through San Juan. Now I carry-on almost everything. We're looking at Fiji for 2008 which may be a problem for carry-on weight. I'm starting to look at alternatives to 'temporarily' lighten the load during check-in (like stuffing the pockets of a photo vest).

LateR!
js.
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#17 james

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 12:17 PM

Hi Jean,

I use a Domke vest that holds a lot. It's called "pho-togs" or something similarly stupid.

As a bonus it comes with a plastic protector for your press pass. See if you can get a press pass to leave in there and maybe the airline will cut you some slack on your carry-on weight.

Cheers
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#18 meister

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Posted 10 October 2006 - 02:14 AM

Even with a Domke Vest, dealing with eleven and fifteen-pound carry-on restrictions is a challenge… :)
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#19 dmoss

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Posted 26 January 2007 - 09:31 AM

Been a while since any information was posted about San Juan so I sent an inquiry this morning and received the following reply:

"Sir:

Regarding your request, the only thing that can say is that even though some arrests have been made, we are still in the process of investigation and identifying other parties with similar habits In an attempt to completely stop the thefts in our airport. The only advice I can offer you at this time is that you take what ever precautionary measures you need to take in order to safeguard your equipment. Hopefully and with GODS help this will end soon and you and all of your clients can enjoy once again some peaceful travel with out the headaches."



So.....Even though it appears some progress has been made it would still be advisable to carry on anything of high value....or check it thru at your own risk.
David
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#20 Jim

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 03:00 AM

So.....Even though it appears some progress has been made it would still be advisable to carry on anything of high value....or check it thru at your own risk.


Any suggestions in getting past the person standing by the steps outside the airplane (ATR-72) making any bag that "appears" oversize be checked in the hold? I've read that the maximum sixe is 36". ThinkTank makes a bag that's compliant with this size. It's just the guy with the double digit income and the single digit IQ that wants to seperate me from my camera that scares me.