Is CES a thieves' paradise?

The massive consumer electronics trade show attracts all sorts of visitors, including thieves

By James Niccolai and Kerry Davis, IDG News Service |  

He said he'd been coming to CES for 17 years and that this year's break-in was the first serious incident for the company. He declined to put a value on the goods stolen but said they were mostly small audio boxes.

Pentax Imaging started using a new security system this year to protect its cameras, after some were stolen in years past. This year, it tethered its cameras to a long wooden board that it can lock away at night.

Police are aware that theft is a problem at CES and in years past have left a laptop with a tracking device lying around in a bid to entrap thieves, Jones said.

Only one crime had been reported to police as of Thursday, he said, but security staff had notified him of three others and Jones said he may hear about more in the coming days. In the incident reported, a thief stole an iPad that was left on a bench and took it to a nearby pawn shop, but the shop refused to buy after calling the owner's number, which was etched on the back of the iPad. Police later obtained a copy of the thief's driving license from the pawn shop.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on CES and hires security staff for the show, did not respond to requests for comment Friday before this story was published.

Like other big trade shows, CES appears difficult to secure. The day before the event, huge doors are open on all sides of the building to allow fork lift trucks to enter, and an army of workmen prepare the space while televisions and other goods are delivered to booths.

Stealing even big items might not be difficult, though none of the vendors reported major thefts this week. Cobra has a Ferrari parked in its booth to attract visitors, and it disconnected the battery this week, partly for safety reasons but also as a deterrent to theft, Kooistra said.

A few vendors said they suspected cleaning staff for the thefts but none presented evidence of that. Another said security guards hired to watch over their booths at night are not diligent enough. Last year, a security guard at the press broadcast center used by IDG News Service was found asleep one evening in an empty room.

"These guys probably make $12 an hour; why would they care what happens?" said a representative at the Hisense booth.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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