December 17, 2010 11:26
As many of you might know, a precious 1696 Stradivari worth 1.4 million Euros was recently stolen from a sandwich bar in London, quite possibly the most costly snack stop of all time. At the time of this writing, it has not yet been recovered.
Yesterday I was interviewed on the subject by The Strad magazine, knowing that I have been researching this, and they asked my opinion as to how a stolen violin can be most easily located and thus recovered. A GPS system built into the case perhaps, or maybe an EPIRB transmitter (Swiss watchmaker Breitling makes one built into one of their chronographs), or something else?
The GPS idea is fascinating with all that space-age technology, but GPS doesn't work inside a building because the receiver cannot pick up the satellite signals from the sky through bricks and mortar. An EPIRB transmitter, or emergency beacon, requires first that someone activate it to start signaling, something a castaway on a desert island will probably do as soon as he finishes the last bottle of rum, but a gesture a Strad thief is likely to put off indefinitely.
Accordingly, I hereby announce my modest contribution to this discussion, which may be the cheapest, simplest, most fool-proof solution so far suggested, and that any six-year-old can operate. All you have to do is take a small, inexpensive cellphone (think Nokia Classic or similar) and hide it away in the case, switched on stand-by in silent mode.
If the violin is stolen, the cellphone hidden in the case will continue to remain in contact with the mobile phone network for days, signaling it's position. The case can thus be tracked by the police in real time (they do it all the time for missing or abducted persons, everyone these days carries a cell phone) and the chances of recovering it are much higher, especially if a reward is offered. In fact, I don't think that the first thing a thief will do is take the violin out of the case and admire it: rather, he will try to distance himself as far as possible from the crime scene and get to a safe haven. And I would imagine that, knowing the value of the stolen Stradivari, he will try to protect it to make sure it doesn't get damaged. So, the violin will most likely stay in the case, at least until the thief reached his hideaway, at which point the police can close in.
The average cellphone has a battery life on stand-by of close to a week, which should be more than adequate time to recover the instrument even if the battery is partially discharged. A tri-band cellphone (900, 1800 and 1900 mHz) will work in most parts of the world, from Milwaukee to Beijing passing through Paris and Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.
The best solution of course remains to keep the Strad under your control at all times, but this isn't always possible and perhaps my suggestion can be useful.
Cheers and Happy Holidays!
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More entries: May 2010