But all I have is a photograph
And I realize you’re not coming back anymore
— “Ringo Starr”
By Randall Grantham
I love technology! Sure, sometimes those endless voicemail loops are a pain in the butt, but overall, technology has streamlined our day-to-day lives and made things easier and more efficient. And just this last week, I discovered one way it can enhance crime-fighting abilities.
As loyal readers know, I am a photography nut. I’ve had a darkroom since high school and I resisted digital technology for years until it finally caught on and then surpassed film quality. Since then I’ve been slowly assembling a respectable amount of digital cameras, lenses and accessories.
One thing nice about the digital technology used in these non-film cameras is that you don’t have to worry so much about the heat in an unattended car destroying your film, so you can carry it around in the car, readily available for that unexpected shot. Well, the other day, my camera case, or should I say my suitcase sized backpack with all my lenses and my best camera, came up missing from my car.
It had been a fixture in my car but, the other day, it was nowhere to be found. After checking every possible place it could be and re-tracing my steps, I came to the conclusion that it must have been stolen. So, without much hope that the police would recover it, but in order to protect myself if it turned up at a local pawn shop, I called it in to the Sheriff’s Office.
A very nice lady deputy responded and even offered to dust my car for prints, but by then I had been in and out of it so much that I knew it would be a fruitless gesture. She asked if I had the serial number of the camera because there was a state wide database that was used for all pawned property and anything pawned had to be kept for 90 days. I now had hope that it would be recovered!
Since I hadn’t recorded the number, I first tried to call the store I bought the camera from, but that location had been closed (along with most, if not all, of University Square Mall). I then called another location and they gave me the number to the national headquarters of Ritz Camera.
HQ had no record but referred me to the extended warranty company, who had records of four previous cameras I bought, but not the one I needed. They referred me back to Ritz at a different number. This time they found the purchase, but had no other information,
By this time, I had found the receipt with some random digits on it, so I called another number at the warranty company to see if that would help. It didn’t, but this operator was able to find the purchase in question and had all the info – date of purchase, amount, camera bought, accessories included, everything except for the serial number, which was the only thing I needed.
Finally, I called Canon to see if I had, by chance, sent in the “warranty” card which is really nothing but a way for them to market more products to you. Of course, I hadn’t, but the Canon rep said there were three ways to get the information I needed: One was the warranty card, which could not be found. Two was the box. The number was on the box, but we had just thrown it out, literally, the week before, in anticipation of an impending move. The third way, which is where technology comes in, is that every single picture that you take with their cameras records the serial number and it’s contained in the metadata which can be accessed using the software that came with the camera.
Why the hell wasn’t I told this to begin with? Before I tore up the house and office and spent hours on the phone! Sure enough, I opened up one of the pictures I had taken with the camera, right clicked here, left clicked there and….BAM! Serial number found.
So, is there a happy ending to this story? Did the cops use the information to locate my camera equipment and snag the thief? Not exactly.
One of my friends realized that my camera “bag” was actually the backpack he had confused with his daughter’s book bag and let me know before I put the number on the “hot list.” I’ve got my stuff back and a newfound appreciation for how smart my stuff is.
What they really need to install in the camera, also in my keys, my phone, my wallet, etc., is a tracking beacon that can be accessed wherever it may be. Now that’s technology that I can appreciate.
Randall C. Grantham is a lifelong resident of Lutz who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway. He can be reached at . Copyright 2009 RCG
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