BY SAMANTHA MASUNAGA
LITTLE TOKYO.—A 17-year-old was arrested Wednesday for his role in the June 14 theft at Bunkado gift shop in Little Tokyo.
After the store’s surveillance system caught the youth on camera, the image was incorporated into a LAPD press release and subsequent interview with a local television station, said Officer Jack Richter, the LAPD senior lead officer responsible for Little Tokyo, who apprehended the suspect.
The police then received a tip from an individual who said the suspect, whose name was not released due to his age, lived in the same building.
After the building manager verified this information, Richter said he waited for the boy in the hallway of the complex and eventually confronted him. Once the youth admitted to the crime, Richter took him into custody. The suspect is expected to go to trial sometime next month, Richter said.
He added that he will ask for restitution, so the money stolen from a purse at the store can be repaid.
Lt. Paul Vernon of LAPD’s Downtown detective division said this is not the suspect’s first arrest.
“We’ll be looking at other burglaries, especially in Little Tokyo and Chinatown,” Vernon told City News Service. “His arrest should cut into some of our theft patterns.”
Vernon said police have been seeking a person who had been sneaking into shops in search of purses, cash and other valuables to steal while store employees were preoccupied with customers.
“This is a common method of operation, stealing women’s purses from small businesses while the employee is distracted,” Vernon explained.
“All of us here are relieved,” said Irene Tsukada Simonian, owner of Bunkado. “But we still need to remain vigilant.”
Brian Kito, president of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, credited Richter’s efforts, as well as the television broadcast and store surveillance camera, with the arrest.
“We’re elated by what Jack can do—he’s just a fantastic officer,” Kito said.
While thefts are generally uncommon in Little Tokyo, Kito said the area has had experience with this kind of crime in years past.
He added that juveniles sometimes engage in this activity on a regular basis until they are caught, a fact that draws parallels with the Bunkado theft.
In spite of the arrest, Richter cautioned business owners and residents to use this incident as a lesson, encouraging them to take an objective look at their own security.
Richter offered to review the security of any location in Little Tokyo and emphasized that some security improvements are relatively easy and inexpensive to implement.
Kito also warned business owners to secure their personal items, a change that has already been made in Bunkado, as store workers now keep their purses under lock and key, according to Simonian.