Rafu Staff Report
ORANGE — Orange Coast Gakuen, a Japanese language school based in Huntington Beach, was victimized by a robber while participating in the Orange International Street Fair in the city of Orange over Labor Day weekend.
The school, which has taken part in the fair for about 30 years, ran a beef teriyaki and chicken karaage booth from Sept. 1 to 3. Surveillance video from Saturday evening showed a man moving a trash container to conceal his actions and then slip under the back of the booth’s tent. The day’s earnings, about $10,000, were gone.
A second man wearing a baseball cap is being called a person of interest. Both appeared to be young white or Hispanic men. None of the people walking by seemed to notice.
“When we looked at the video, we saw the two men … casing the joint about two hours before, just hanging around,” said Bob Uriu, school board chair. “They saw a vulnerability.”
And with hundreds of thousands of people attending the fair, “it would be very easy to get lost in the crowd,” he added.
Police told Uriu that there was very little chance of catching the suspects, and even if they are caught, the chances of recovering the money, which was in small denominations, are small.
At the same time, police said the men were probably not professional criminals because “the pros would have looked at the security cameras,” Uriu said.
Noting that nothing like this has happened before, Uriu reported that the volunteers were “all pretty shocked.” Needless to say, everyone was “very careful” on Sunday, the last day of the fair.
Describing the fair as a fun event that builds school spirit, Uriu commented, “What’s so painful about this is that all of our parents, teachers and students were out there working. I counted something like 1,500 people hours … Many of those people were students, working for the school, trying to contribute … so all of that work was just erased.”
However, he said, “Our school will be okay. The money basically is used to pay the rent, so we’ll be a little short his year, but it’s not like the school is going to fail or fold. Adversity makes people buckle down and work that much harder. The parents have been so wonderful in terms of trying to think of ways to recoup the losses.”
Founded in 1975, Orange Coast Gakuen is committed to offering quality education by teaching Japanese language and culture to students of all ages with stimulating topics and cultural events. For more information, email [email protected] or visit www.orangecoastgakuen.org.