I had to pick my pictures up from the police station (kinda long)

I’m not a very good storyteller, so I am sorry if this bores you, but I am quite bewildered and wanted to share:

My little sister came up to visit me and I took her to New York City to do some sightseeing. She had never been to the big apple, so we took a Circle Line Cruise. We took the typical pictures of the Empire State building, the Statue of Liberty, the Chysler Tower, and the hole where the WTC Towers were.
When I dropped her off at the airport, there was a big sign near the area where you take your baggage to be electronically sniffed for explosives that said to not leave film in the suitcases for it would be harmed. There was a similar sign at the security checkpoint, so I took our three rolls of film to be developed, to protect them from being damamged by the x-ray machines. No problem.

I took the pictures to the CVS near my apartment, and came back an hour later to pick them up. But, when I got there, the manager was looking at me all suspicious like and the guy behind the counter started asking me questions like, “Do you live around here? Are you originally from somewhere else?” THen he informed me that one roll of pictures I took was full of monuments and he had to report it to the authorities. My first response was wtf? but I said fine, how long is it going to take, and when can I have my pictures. He didn’t know because he had never done it before.

It took a while, and I had to leave to pick my boyfriend up from class, but when we returned we got the same suspicious looks from the manager (the bf noticed them w/o me mentioning them, so I don’t tyhink they were imagined) and the guy behind the counter handed me the business card of a detective and told me I would have to go to the police station to pick up that one roll of film. “OK, fine, thanks for letting me know. I’ll head to the police station right now.”

The detective takes us up to his office and asks me for my info, while almost laughing. Aparently he finds this new procedure as absurd as I first did, but we both play along for the sake of national security. He takes my address, age, name, and phone number, and the same info for my little sister, since I had explained that they were really her pictures. He also asks for a receipt for the Circle Line Cruise, which I don’t have on me; and laughs (outloud) while declining my offer to bring him the tickets I had kept for the scrapbook I was going to make my sister.

So, all in all, I just thought it was a bit odd. I don’t feel safer. But most of the people I have told the story to somehow do. I respect that and I understand there are a lot of new security measures we are all going to have to get used to, at least for a while.

I have just the thread for you.


Egad. Considering that those super-strong x-ray machines are also there to thwart terrorism, it’s really “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”, isn’t it?

Maybe you should buy your sister a digital camera :). (Then again, you might be accused of terrorism at a camera store–“You only want this because you want to photograph monuments and you can’t get your film pictures developed at the drugstore!”) Are they going to stop selling postcards of these places, too? Aren’t these among the most photographed places on Earth?

As far as I know, no X-Ray maching can harm normal film. The film in your camera reacts to the same wavelengths of light that we see - X-Ray’s are in a completely different wavelength. In other words, I think you would have been better off waiting untill you got home to develop your pictures (I doubt this procedure is nationwide - just New York).


Think it will fool the-powers-that-be if I bring a bunch of kids with me to DC next week and manage to work them into all of my photos?

Or will they readily see through my transparent “family vacation/sightseeing” facade?


For what it’s worth, there was an article in the January Consumer Reports about the dangers of the new, higher-powered x-ray machines airport security is now using. They showed photographs which were developed after being taken through these new machines, and they were streaky and blotchy. Just FYI, that’s what they’re saying.

How Dare you! Taking pictures of landmarks! Next thing you know you’ll be taking pictures of babies and little puppies! Ignorance of the law is no excuse! Thomas Ridge has released a list of items allowed to be photographed. May I suggest you adhere to this list!

bathroom tile

Sycorob, Popular Photography has been warning people for several years (before 9/11/01) about these x-ray machines. The January 1999 issue’s “SLR” column (page 14) has a sample picture that was ruined by these machines. There’s a big light-colored band right through the middle of the picture. The advice then was to either pack film in your carry-on luggage (the x-rays there weren’t as strong) or have it hand-searched (still involves carrying it aboard, and could get quite tedious if you’re a professional who carries around a lot of film.) I’m not sure if carrying film in carry-on luggage is still OK–I let my Pop Photo subscription lapse in 2000, and I haven’t flown since 9/11. But, you’re taking a real risk if you leave film in checked luggage.

Developing your snapshots before you go home would be an excellent solution (x-rays can’t hurt printed pictures or developed film), but not if you risk having your pictures confisgated by the police because you took a picture of the Statue of Liberty! What a PITA!

Are you crazy? Ever heard of a shoe bomb?

Don’t even get me started about lint bombs.


To the OP:

I realise that the detective you talked to about this seemed to be a pretty reasonable guy who found the whole thing almost as silly as you did. However, in your position i would have refused to give any details about myself, asked for my pictures back, and left. They had no right to ask you any questions about this, and nor did they have a right to hold your proprty or detain you without reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause. And i’d be willing to bet, even in these times of heightened security, that taking tourist snapshots of popular public landmarks does not qualify.

I would also have returned to the CVS, asked to speak to the manager, and informed him that i would be writing to his superiors and that he would also be hearing from my lawyer about this incident. While i doubt i would bother with any such action, it might serve to make the officious little fucker think twice before calling the cops about tourist pictures.

The new InVision baggage scanning machines are much stronger than the old baggage X-ray machines. InVision specifically advises not to put film in baggage.

X-ray machines can do nasty things to film, trust me. I wasn’t aware of this fact when I left some film in a carry-on bag when it went through the machine, I used that film to take pictures at my parents’ 50th Anniversary Party. The entire roll came back looking like I had taken pictures of a TV screen set between channels. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

OTOH, you’re correct in that it’s not necessary to develop film beforehand. The film can be placed in the change tray when the owner of the film goes through the metal detector. That’s what I do now whenever I fly having learned my lesson the hard way. BTW: film will also set off the metal detector. I learned that the second time I flew.

HeeHee. I went to visit my dad a while back and was taking a video tape of my kids to show him. My husband told me about the new x-ray machine and how they can damage film and video so he suggested that I wrap it in aluminum foil. :eek: My dad got delayed going home from my house because some lady had wrapped some makeup in foil and it shut down the whole airport for hours. I thought that if I wore a reynolds wrap helmet to match that maybe I’d get away with wrapping all my luggage up. :smiley:

Seriously, I just put the tape in the tray and then back into my carry-on. But I did get stopped for having a wrench in my purse. I had taken out my screwdriver but had forgotten about the wrench and it was confiscated. :rolleyes: You don’t know how hard it was to keep my mouth shut and not jokingly say something about how I needed it to clonk the pilot over the head. But jail-time doesn’t appeal to me much.

Oh, and I was wearing boots that I had to take off at each checkpoint and run through the machine. Luckily they zipped intead of laced.

I have a friend who was questioned by the authorities for taking photos of monuments in Moscow in the 1960s.

The USA is racing in the wrong direction.

Early in '01 (my how time flies), I started planning a trip to England working on the theory of "if I’m not careful, the ‘someday I’m gonna’ might turn into ‘I wish I woulda, when I was younger’ ". Around July or August, my plans were pretty much locked in for an early October trip–then came September 11.
I never once considered changing my plans, and reasonable security at airports seemed, well, reasonable. I checked my baggage at Reno, NV. to LAX (where it and myself would transfer to my flight over the pond), and after nodding and smiling to the guardsmen in battle gear I went through security with my carry-on bag to the gate.
As a smoker familiar enough with LAX to know that the “gas chamber” smoking areas are outside the check-in, I figured I could go through the formalities with the ticketing, check the carry-on in a locker, and simplify my passing to and from the waiting area (it was a four hour wait).
Much to my surprise (never take anything for granted), the lockers, which were past the scanners, had been locked out as a security measure! I suppose I can’t blame them for being overly cautious, especially at that time, but it meant that if I wanted a cigarette after a beer or a bite, I had to lug my bag back out through security, and repeat the whole process coming back in.
Over the course of the afternoon it became almost a running joke between myself and the security personnel, but I can’t help but think there must have been a better way.
–Alan Q

Thanks to the people pointing out that XRays are in fact dangerous to film. I had no idea.

I generally carry a digital camera around, but good to know.

As was my wife when she in in Red Square in the 80’s.

They took her film, her name, and some other info. She never got the film back.

Yup. Amerika is turnign into quite the place.

For the record, the last two times I’ve flown I’ve taken a smallish camera bag as a carry-on, with a very basic SLR and maybe ten rolls of film. I’m travelling, I like to take photos. Security would not hand search my bag, even after repeated requests to various people and asking to speak to a supervisor. The choices were run my camera equipment and film through the x-ray, or miss the flight, end of story.

I get the feeling there’s a lot of tourists who are going to have to pick up there film from the police…

(You go on holiday, you take photos! It’s just what people do!)

Thank God there’s no way to drive into Manhattan and take photos, this security measure is sure to foil terrorists!