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Tent Robbers

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One all-too-common story on this board in recent weeks has concerned the alarming increase in thefts from tents at festivals big and small.

Members of the Association of Festival Organisers (which includes the likes of Guilfest, Trowbridge, Cambridge Folk Festival, Larmer Tree, Towersey and many other smaller festivals) have also been discussing this problem in their own e-group.

They've confirmed that gangs of tent-robbers seem to be systematically targetting festivals. Gang members appear to be buying festival season tickets so they have wristbands and can more easily blend in with the crowds. It seems they often arrive early, set-up their own tents, monitor movements around the campsite and identify the softest targets and easiest areas to attack. Many of the robberies take place on the first night of a festival when campers are more likely to have decent wads of cash in their tents.

The AFO members are pooling their own knowledge and experiences in the hope of identifying effective strategies for combatting this problem next year. More security patrols, better lighting on campsites and other measures may help but given the tent-robbers appear to be buying season tickets and wearing wristbands some conventional security measures such as better perimeter fencing probably won't make any difference.

Ideas from e-festivals members for tackling this problem based on our own experiences will be welcomed. Many Festival Organisers attend the Association of Festival Organisers Annual Conference in November and the more constructive suggestions for combatting thefts from tents that can be made by then, the better for us all.

Cambridge, for example, handed every motorist parking in the Festival car parks this year a Police Notice advising people not to leave valuables in cars. The Notice stating valuables had been removed from a vehicle could be clearly displayed in the vehicle for the weekend. Maybe we need similar Notices for tents and maybe Festivals, like hotels, will have to start offering some form of safe depository for valuables.

More of the larger Festivals are arranging for Cash Machines on site meaning festival-goers can withdraw cash when needed over the weekend instead of arriving on-site with a couple of hundred quid stuffed in their back pocket. Of course you still have to keep your cash card secure....

Maybe huge campsites should be divided into smaller compounds making it easier to watch-out for your neighbours and harder for tent-robbers to blend in with the crowds and roam around unnoticed.

Different wristbands for each sector of a campsite might also help.

The problem is growing though it's nothing new. I was robbed of all my cash at a Festival in Lancashire back in the 1970s (thankfully by a thief with a conscience who left my wallet with coach ticket behind) but it's bugged me for the past 28 years to know how the f*cker did it and anything that helps stop others from suddenly finding they're stuck in the middle of nowhere with no cash or cards should be welcomed by us all.

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I can well believe organised thieving is now the case, sadly.

I've been to two very differant weekend festivals this year and there were thefts at both. The first was at Latitude, where wallets and bags were stolen from the tents while people slept on the first night- some girls near us had a bag taken that was right near their heads, so the thieves must have had a huge nerve to actually unzip and enter the tent and reach across to grab the bag.

I've just come back from Cropredy- an event with a reputation as a safe family affair, and again there were thefts from tents. There were notices put up after the first night warning everyone to take extra care.

I guess the most important message is to keep all your valuables on your person at all times, and keep them in your sleeping bag at night. Anything I can't afford to loose at a festival I carry with me- including my contact lens gear after a friend had her wash bag stolen at Glasto- anyone for a used toothbrush and flannel? ;)

This is the first year I've taken a family-style tent with seperate rooms to a festival, and I did think this probably increased our security as there are three seperate doors that have to be unzipped before gaining access to the sleeping area, which is a fairly noisy business. Anyone getting through that lot would have been confronted with my other half wielding a hefty mallet and ready with his martial arts skills..

It also helps to get to know your neighbours so you can all look out for each other, and generally be vigillant. I also think a bit of a reality check is needed by some festival goers- I've spoken to people fairly new on the festival scene who think it's all peace and love man, and you can trust everyone, they are genuinely surprised thefts occur- hmmm :blink:

I'm not sure how effective 'I have no valuables in here' stickers would be to be honest, I think it suggests the opposite!

Security lock-ups seem like a good idea, although probably not something I would use personally, unless they were easily accessible and seemed 100% safe. Cash machines are also a good idea, although maybe not for those of us on a strict budget!

There have been campsite patrols at Glastonbury in recent years and I think this has been an excellent idea- they've been pretty low-key but must act as a bit of a deterrant to some would-be thieves, as they seem to pop up at random.

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there's been bigger thieving problems at Womad and Big Chill this year too - and you're right, it does appear to be ticketed people that are doing it.

Because Womad and Reading Festival share the same land, it's very likely that Reading Fest will suffer the same problems as Womad - I made a post in the Reading forums about it, warning people to take extra care, and as I happened to have a chat with Mean Fiddler's Melvin Benn last week, I took the opportunity to mention it to him in the hope there might be a few things he can do to lessen the problem for Reading Festival goers (he wasn't aware that Womad had had a problem, but he did say it was a while since he'd talked to Thames Valley Police).

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I informed one of the directors of the security for Reading on the problems at WOMAD and they were going to liase with TVP and MB on the problem.

I agree it is becoming worse, this year at Wickerman there was the same problem despite not being a problem in past years.

Never heard of any thefts happening last weekend at another small festival but no doubt there was at some point over the weekend.

All the suggestions above sound like good ideas, increasing numbers in security and making fences more secure may not help as it does seem to be people with tickets carrying out the thefts.

Edited by Paul ™

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Do most robberies occur during the day when people are out of their tent, or at night whilst their sleeping?

it can be either - whenever the scumbags think they'll get away with it.

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Are there any sort of lockers at Reading, and if so how much do they cost? I never have a huge amount of cash on me (use cashpoints) but if my train ticket AND my bank card are nicked I'm absolutely stuffed!

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Are there any sort of lockers at Reading, and if so how much do they cost? I never have a huge amount of cash on me (use cashpoints) but if my train ticket AND my bank card are nicked I'm absolutely stuffed!

There will be secure lock-ups in each campsite zone and also one at Reaper Bridge. They are free as far as I remember and are run by WAVES and are manned 24/7

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One Glastonbury, I woke up in the middle of the night to find two men in black hoodies with the hoods up in my tent with me, leaning over me and trying to nick stuff from the back of the tent. I have never had such a big fright.

A few hours previously, people kept coming around our tent supposedly selling drugs, but they were actually whispering outside people's doors to see if they got a response and thus if anyone was in there.

I would have chased the little sh*ts, but it was the great muddy glasto of 1997 and i had no shoes on and the mud was ankle deep! Anyway by the time I scrambled up and to the door they'd vanished behind a tent somewhere.

In fact I've been robbed at 4 different glastos now.

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I guess the most important message is to keep all your valuables on your person at all times, and keep them in your sleeping bag at night. Anything I can't afford to loose at a festival I carry with me-

That's all very sensible, but I have a bit of a problem with ALL the responsibility being put onto the average festie goer -- yes, we should be more vigilant and take care, but in the main WOMAD arena, I only took my eye off my daybag (stacked with lots of other peoples by a large group of us) for 5 minutes maximum, and some lowlife still took it.,

In my view more emphasis should be placed on getting more security (the numbers were woefully inadequate at WOMAD), and more vigilant security, briefed to be visibly watching out for suspicious wanderers rather than on yer average festie goer skinning up .... instead of the Police/organisers/security merely warning the punters (implicitly blaming them if things get taken??) and sitting back ...

It also helps to get to know your neighbours so you can all look out for each other, and generally be vigillant. I also think a bit of a reality check is needed by some festival goers- I've spoken to people fairly new on the festival scene who think it's all peace and love man, and you can trust everyone, they are genuinely surprised thefts occur- hmmm :blink:
I've met few festie goers this naive, I think you're wildly exaggerating that. And I don't really like the sound of festie goers being blamed, either. At WOMAD, word of tents being targetted (mine was entered TWICE, luckily both times with me inside and nothing taken, before my daybag finally copped it on Saturday), got passed around VERY quickly -- but vigilant festie goers on the campsite alone are NOT ENOUGH -- it shouldn't be down to the festie goers alone to protect themselves, there should be more patrols (as you suggest below) and much more rapid responses by the Police and (proper) security to any reports of incidents, such that the area where a gang is spotted is targetted for a security sweep as soon as possible after problems are reported.

More and more visible security around would deter in advance some indidents, but only to an extent -- there were Oxfam stewards on scaffolding towers dotted round the WOMAD campsite, but their presence didn't seem to do much to deter gangs of thieves systematically sweeping parts of the site and targetting all tents. In my area, nearly everyone's tent had an attempt made on it.

There have been campsite patrols at Glastonbury in recent years and I think this has been an excellent idea- they've been pretty low-key but must act as a bit of a deterrant to some would-be thieves, as they seem to pop up at random.

This I agree woth, should be a universal practice at all festivals or at least the larger ones, but would need to happen at night as well to be effective, which might be tough ....

<pure speculation mode> :

I wonder too on the wisdom of holding two large festivals (WOMAD and 'the' Reading Festival) so near the centre of a town acknowledged by some of its residents to have no shortage of lowlife crims and thieves, and in one area at least, crack addicts. Although talk of people having onsite tickets, no doubt bought at locals' discount prices, may mean that only the more scheming and plan-oriented thieves, rather than chaotic crackheads, get on and do their evil thing .....

Move the WOMAD site at least, I say! But I doubt it will happen.

Edited by William of Walworth

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Thanks for the informative post. Was an interesting read. I've been to Glade and Global Gathering this year. Apparantly there were some thefts from Glade on the 1st night, but I think the security people caught them. I didn't hear about much trouble at GG but then it's so big that you might not hear all the news....

Anyways I always carried my stuff with me - trousers with lots of zipped pockets helped - then stuff ur wallet / phone / camera / (legal) drugs etc etc etc in the various pockets. If the robbers wanna go through my underwear and socks then good luck to 'em!!

I guess the most important thing is not to let it ruin your festie, if you do have some stuff nicked - I saw people sharing money n stuff with the poor people who got robbed - I thought that was really cool.

2 days to Secret Garden Party - woooohooooo

:-)

Edited by Beat-breaker

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While locking your tent when you're out can often act as a big advertisement to thieves, I don't think Ive heard anyone mention locking it from the inside when you're sleeping at night as yet.

You wouldn't even need a padlock, a simple ring tie, type thing would probably do the job and thwart any would be thieves getting in while you're in a booze induced coma.

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during glasto a few years back saw a gang going round with baseball bats robbing people. one guy camped near us got a tooth knocked out. if this brute force comes to reading there's not much you can do to stop them although it'd be easier for the police to find them as they're less discreet

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While locking your tent when you're out can often act as a big advertisement to thieves, I don't think Ive heard anyone mention locking it from the inside when you're sleeping at night as yet.

You wouldn't even need a padlock, a simple ring tie, type thing would probably do the job and thwart any would be thieves getting in while you're in a booze induced coma.

excellent idea!

(tho don't go forgetting that you might wake in the night busting for a piss, and be needing a hasty exit from the tent!).

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As part of my work I get quite involved in aspects of crime prevention.

A really good way of preventing any sort of acquisative crime is to either make it so that it is not wrothwhile for the criminal - e.g. the aim of blocking mobile phones is to get them blocked sof ast and in such a manner that there is no value in them for a criminal.

The other aopproach is to increase the risk of being caught/the consequences if caught for the criminal. Thigs such as Smart Water etc work on thuis principle, as do CCTV, high Visibility security patrols etc etc

Now obviously these aren't solutions to theft at festivals, and I'm drawing a blank on suggestions at present beyond what has already been mentioned. But these are directions that can and do work, if anyone has any ideas!!

EDIT: just had a chat with a guy at work, bouncing some ideas around.

The idea of locking your tent from the inside is good - but I'm too paranoid about tent fires!!

What about buying a couple of bells (a matter of pennies from a haberdashery type shop) and attching them to the zip.

This has 2 benefits. If its at night, the sound is more likely to wake you than the sound of the zip alone. Also, it will be a nopise the theif doesn't expect when unzipping the tent. This is likely to unnerve him - again based on perceived level of risk, more likely to alert any occupants or people nearby. Most offenders are likely to give up[ on the idea and target another tent.

A slightly less budget option is a PIR (heat not movement based) shed alarm with a key code.

Hang it in your tent, someone comes in it will emit the usual alrm warning beeps - again, likely to scare them off. However, the alarm would then go off and wake you, or annoy the neighbours if it happens when you're not there.

Also would only work in tents with separate 'rooms' when you are in it.

A similar idea is a personal attack alarm, pin part attached to the zip, main part taped to bottom of tent. zip opens, alarm goes off, but similar problems as the shed alarm. Guess it depends on how much you mind annoying people!!!

Think I'm gonna be going with the bells!

Edited by kittycat100

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4 girls camped next to us at WOMAD had all there bags stolen, when they woke it was gone, so whoever did it went into there tent while they were asleep…

Shocking stuff, I really felt for the girls, about two hours later, they were reunited with there bags, less the money!!!!

I really dont like camping away from the area as you do at V and WOMAD.

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excellent idea!

(tho don't go forgetting that you might wake in the night busting for a piss, and be needing a hasty exit from the tent!).

At Roskilde they tell you to lock your tent. If everyone locked there tents (or so there logic goes) its a lot easyer to spot someone who is trying to break into tents.

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I noticed at the Wickham Festival they had CCTV covering the main Festival site and part of the campsite. One of the organisers told me it was 'movement-activated' so anyone moving between stalls or tents at night would be videoed. They didn't have a single theft from a tent at Wickham so maybe CCTV is a good deterrent. It might be costly but a basic temporary system ought to be affordable to Festival organisers who stand to benefit from increased ticket sales if their site is known to be safe.

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There is CCTV at Reading but to cover the whole campsite would need hundreds of cameras

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I wonder too on the wisdom of holding two large festivals (WOMAD and 'the' Reading Festival) so near the centre of a town acknowledged by some of its residents to have no shortage of lowlife crims and thieves, and in one area at least, crack addicts. Although talk of people having onsite tickets, no doubt bought at locals' discount prices, may mean that only the more scheming and plan-oriented thieves, rather than chaotic crackheads, get on and do their evil thing .....

I've heard that thieves are prepared to buy tickets these days, a £125 investment when they can steal £100's of pounds worth of gear over a few days. But I'd agree that WOMAD/Reading being so close to a town centre does not help the crim situation, and Reading can be dodgy at the best of times, but security at Reading (not been to WOMAD) in the campsite has always been lapse, every year numerous people camp at Reading without wristbands, its too easy for people to get on site without a ticket and that needs to be addressed.

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I've heard that thieves are prepared to buy tickets these days, a £125 investment when they can steal £100's of pounds worth of gear over a few days. But I'd agree that WOMAD/Reading being so close to a town centre does not help the crim situation, and Reading can be dodgy at the best of times, but security at Reading (not been to WOMAD) in the campsite has always been lapse, every year numerous people camp at Reading without wristbands, its too easy for people to get on site without a ticket and that needs to be addressed.

Doesnt help that a public right of way runs through the site.. but all they need is a day ticket as there is no seperate entrance

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I guess the most important message is to keep all your valuables on your person at all times, and keep them in your sleeping bag at night.

While I do this myself, I read on another forum about someone getting stuff nicked from inside their sleeping bag while they were in it :(:)

excellent idea!

(tho don't go forgetting that you might wake in the night busting for a piss, and be needing a hasty exit from the tent!).

:blink: that is indeed a great idea benj (though that is a very good point, Neil ;))

What about buying a couple of bells (a matter of pennies from a haberdashery type shop) and attching them to the zip.

This has 2 benefits. If its at night, the sound is more likely to wake you than the sound of the zip alone. Also, it will be a nopise the theif doesn't expect when unzipping the tent. This is likely to unnerve him - again based on perceived level of risk, more likely to alert any occupants or people nearby. Most offenders are likely to give up[ on the idea and target another tent.

That is brilliant :) Might have to nick that idea off you (and yours too benj!)

Wow, I got through a post about tent thefts without once mentioning putting the lock-ups to use!! Oh....

um :D

spoke too soon :P

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Doesnt help that a public right of way runs through the site.. but all they need is a day ticket as there is no seperate entrance

Yeah the public right of way is a big pain the ass, but isn't there some way that along this public right of way, entrances to the site are manned 24/7? :blink:

And true about the day ticket business, I think its a big part of the problem Reading has, they could do with separate entrances for day people but I believe thats not possible. ;)

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