Thieves caught on camera trying to steal ... camera

Picture this: A hammer-wielding man pries a security camera from the side of a Modesto law office.

It takes him a couple of minutes. And all the while, the camera is rolling, perfectly capturing his grimacing face as he works.

It even shows him nearly falling off a large garbage container that he and an accomplice placed under the camera so he could reach it. At one point, even the accomplice looks directly into the camera.

After some wild swings of a hammer, which still has the bar code sticker attached, the man finally pries it loose, but the camera keeps recording while on the ground before it shuts off.

"I think it's just moronic," said Tom Nelson, the law firm's legal assistant. "We've got pretty good proof they did it."

While Nelson takes the incident with good humor, the theft is a hefty loss — about $1,000 to replace the camera and install a new one at the McHenry Avenue office.

Police say it's not uncommon for the cameras purchased to deter crime at Modesto businesses to become the targets of theft. The steep price for such equipment can be alluring for a perpetrator to make some quick cash — from $100 to $1,500.

Some think they can hide evidence of another crime by taking the camera hardware.

Mark Pino with I Spy Vision in Manteca said he's helped catch thieves who have smashed into area businesses and broken the camera — forgetting they haven't done away with the footage.

"We have the data saved off-site," Pino said, laughing. "We still catch them."

Pino said a variety of tools have come on the market to better protect the expensive cameras, from screws with unique grooves to motion sensors that set off lights and sirens if someone gets too close.

Sgt. Rick Armendariz said Modesto police haven't yet made any arrests in the McHenry Avenue case but said he couldn't ask for better evidence.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at or 578-2337.