Handy tip for would-be thieves:
If you’re looking for a place to rob, don’t pick a photography studio or any business whose owners know their way around a camera, including the surveillance and security kind.
Such cameras came in handy at Kim Jew Photography, whose Eubank NE location was broken into early Monday morning by a thief who walked off with $6,000 worth of camera equipment and priceless memory cards.
Images captured on film of the photogenic pilferer were so crisp and clear that a suspect was quickly identified.
“We got the guy, here he is, go get him,” said Kim Jew, whose photography studio has been shooting the famous, the families, the babies and the graduates, the professionals and the pageant queens for 45 years. “We got the name, address and a license plate of a car in front of his house.”
People who recognized the suspect reported their information to Albuquerque Crime Stoppers. Jew attempted to contact the two Albuquerque police officers who had taken the robbery report.
Then nothing happened.
“It’s frustrating,” Jew said. “We were told the two officers have been off for the past two days and nothing can be done until they are back on duty. I can’t even call them because all I was given was an email.”
According to a police report, one of the officers responded to Jew on Thursday.
“This case has been turned over to an impact unit to investigate and detectives are following up,” APD spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins said in an email. “We appreciate any help from business owners when reporting these crimes, such as surveillance video or any other evidence they may be able to provide.”
But Jew remains worried that by the time investigators catch up with the suspect, the stolen cash will be spent and the stolen Canon cameras, lenses and strobe light will be pawned.
“This is a huge loss to us,” said Karan Sipe, Jew’s wife. “During the pandemic, our studio was closed for weeks and we found new ways to keep our employees paid. Now in order to make our livelihood it is difficult without the equipment we need.”
Equipment can be replaced. Harder to replace are the 15 or so memory cards containing portraits of as many as 20 families and an unknown number of high school graduates.
“Many of those photo sessions occurred during the Easter holiday when family members from out of town were here,” Jew said. “Now we have to try to get all those folks back into the studio.”
You can imagine how it must feel to the students whose graduation portraits are lost in addition to everything they’ve lost of their school experience.
Jew worries the memory cards will be destroyed.
“That’s the worst loss,” he said.
In the surveillance video, the bespectacled man, who appears to be wearing a COVID mask and gloves, is seen kicking in the bottom of a glass door, crawling through and wandering about for a few minutes around 4:20 a.m.
He leaves then returns, this time with no mask, and carrying a backpack presumably to cart off the stolen goods. He leaves, pedaling away on a bicycle.
Property crimes have been down in the last two years, according to APD. But as my colleague Matthew Reisen reported earlier this year, APD Chief Harold Medina suggests it may not feel that way because the numbers were so high to begin with.
“We can keep arresting individuals over and over, but if we’re not correcting the behavior … it’s a never-ending vicious cycle that ultimately the community pays a price for,” Medina told Reisen.
Keeping up with serial property crimes keeps officers busy. On the same morning the photography studio was robbed, residents woke up to a Journal article, also written by Reisen, about the arrests of two young men who detectives believe may be part of a ring of youths responsible for up to 80 burglaries in Albuquerque and six in Los Lunas.
The next morning, Journal colleague Mike Gallagher reported that the only adult in the bunch – Jesse Mascareno-Haidle, 18 – was released on his own recognizance after prosecutors failed to convince two state district court judges and the Court of Appeals that Mascareno-Haidle is a danger to the community given the high number of break-ins he is charged with.
The 41-year-old man identified in surveillance videos as the suspect in the photography studio break-in has a hefty criminal record, too, yet court records indicate that he has faced little punitive measures or treatment. A notation from a public defender in those court records also states that his client has a history of substance abuse.
According to those records, the man was charged in 2015 with reckless driving after an officer said he was speeding through numerous stop signs and a red light in heavy traffic. The case was dismissed when the officer failed to show up for court.
In 2019, he was charged with auto theft for what his attorney called a “joyride” in a next-door neighbor’s car. The neighbor’s daughter told police she followed him for about a mile where he parked the car and walked to a nearby park. The charge was dismissed because of “insufficient evidence.”
In November 2019, he was charged with criminal damage to property after a neighbor said she saw him shatter her vehicle’s rear window with a baseball bat then flee on a bike. That charge was dismissed in 2020 when the officer failed to show up for court.
His record also includes two convictions on DWI, one that was deferred, and three arrests on domestic violence-related charges. Two of those domestic violence cases, both occurring in 2019, were dismissed. The third, in February, is pending. A warrant for his arrest was issued in late March after he failed to appear in court to address that charge. That warrant is still active.
Law enforcement and the courts have their hands full, and few can begrudge officers for taking a couple of days off. But as Chief Medina pointed out, as those who have been victimized in a crime know all too well, unless the behavior is corrected – and, I would add, the legal system is corrected – crimes across the city will be part of that never-ending vicious cycle that ultimately the community pays a price for.
That’s a handy tip we ignore at our own peril.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, email@example.com, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.