A man on a New York subway was asked by a fellow passenger what he was carrying in the small bag. Proud of his Leicas, the photographer displayed two cameras and several lenses. The admirer pulled a knife, took the cameras and bag and got off at the next stop.

At the inaugural in Washington, where admission was tightly controlled, someone filched a leather case for a brand-new lens while its owners was fitting the lens to a camera. a few moments earlier, and the thief would have been gone with the lens.

At a Philadelphia football game, somebody watched photographers pulling gear out of their car, putting other items in the trunk. The car was stolen and later found minus the cameras.

Cameras are small and portable -- and accessible and valuable. A Nikon F3 camera and motor is worth about $1,000. A stolen F3 and motor may cost the purchaser $300. The purchaser of "super bargain" equipment should beware, because if it's stolen you can lose the merchandise an get a lot of grief in its place.

Snady Colton of the Associated Press asked Jack Meeks, of New York City's Crime Prevention Section, about ways photographers can guard against theft.

Meeks recommended burglar alarms on cars regularly used to transport camera gear and a cylinder guard on the trunk lock to prevent a thief from punching it open. If you carry several cameras, a heavy metal box can be attached to the floor with bolts or hasps and locks.

Police also recommend that you join the "creation identification" program in which you use an etching pen to mark cameras and lenses and any other valuable gear, making such equipment less desirable to a thief. The identification code makes it easier to get the gear returned quickly if it is ever stolen and pawned.

A pawn shop found with stolen merchandise marked with identification codes loses its license, and "fences" are reluctant to take marked items.

Cameras should never be left in open view inside a car. Heat from sunlight can ruin your film, and the display may prove too tempting to passersby.

When you set down a camera bag holding gear, run your foot through the strap so someone can't snatch the bag and run. Bags can be locked, but it's a nuisance.

Never leave the camera bag in a hotel room. Most hotels have a safe-deposit system. If you find this impractical or too time-consuming hang the equipment inside a coat or shirt on the hangers in the closets, where a hurried sneak thief is likely to miss it.

Insurnace costs for cameras and lenses make it almost cheaper to lose a camera every three years or so rather than pay the premiums, especially for professional photographers. It might pay to check your homeowner's insurance policy to see if your camera equipment is insured, especially before you take a trip.