Lenstag: A Free Online Equipment Registry That Aims To Stop The Theft Of Cameras And Lenses

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Photographic equipment has long been attractive to thieves. After all, it’s generally portable, expensive, and easy to sell through channels like Craigslist. In northern California, thieves have started targeting photojournalists at gunpoint in order to snatch their equipment.

Developer Trevor Sehrer, a Google engineer a day, worked on a website that aims to combat the theft of photographic equipment. It’s called Lenstag, and is an online equipment registry that makes it easy to report and track stolen cameras and lenses.

“Cameras and lenses are like jewels right now,” Sehrer tells us. “You can just take a lens, take it to a pawnshop, and then sell it.”

Lenstag is his attempt to solve this growing problem. It is “designed to erase the ability of thieves to resell stolen material”. By making it harder to sell stolen equipment, Sehrer hopes it will eventually “reduce the likelihood of equipment being completely stolen.”

Let’s see how the service works. It starts with a simple one-step login / registration form. Enter your email and password, and you’ll soon find yourself in front of a main register where you can list all the equipment you own.

lenstag-mainlist

Adding equipment to the list is simple and is done via a small form that appears.

lenstag_addgear

Pretending that the equipment is yours isn’t enough, however. You will need to go further and verify that you actually own this equipment. This is done by providing a photograph of this equipment – an image that includes a clear view of the serial number.

lenstag-verifygear

A human on the other end of the service will review the photo and judge whether or not you own what you claim. Once you get a green light, the equipment will be listed as “Verified” on your registry.

At this point, you will see two new options for what you can do. One is “Transfer”, which allows you to officially transfer the equipment to the Lenstag account of another photographer.

lenstag-transfergear

The other is a button that you will hopefully never have to click: “Report stolen equipment.” If your camera or lens is stolen, you will use this form to report that particular serial number as “stolen”:

lenstag-stolen reports

Once this report is filed, your equipment will be marked as stolen in the Lenstag system. This database of stolen equipment will be useful to those who need to verify the legitimacy of the equipment they are purchasing second-hand.

For example, a photographer purchasing a lens on Craigslist will now have an easy-to-query database to see if they are purchasing stolen items. Police departments and pawn shops can also use the Lenstag register for easy searches.

In addition to providing the information via a Lenstag search, the site attempts to bring up the report of stolen equipment in Internet searches. Each stolen piece of equipment has its own public web page that lists it as a stolen item.

target flight report

This page is indexed by search engines such as Google. This means that you won’t need to do any special searches on the Lenstag website – a simple Google search for a serial number and keyword (eg “stolen”, “lenstag”) will suffice.

Sehrer tells us that he has no plans to monetize this service (as of yet) and is simply on a mission to disrupt the market for stolen material. “The first few hours after a flight are absolutely crucial for recovery,” he tells us. “Lenstag can get a record of a stolen item from the web faster than anyone can file a police report. “

Large companies have already started to partner with Lenstag in order to keep control of their equipment. These include two large equipment rental companies, LensLocations and BorrowLentils, who now use the system to reduce theft and speed up equipment recovery.

Do you want to get started in monitoring your equipment? Head over to the newly launched Lenstag website to get started.


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