Two men videotaped stealing jewelry from a Mesa cigar store have become YouTube stars, although Mesa police said they are still searching for suspects.
Robert Guertin, owner of Big Sticks Fine Cigars at 1017 N. Dobson Road, said he posted two surveillance videos from his store on YouTube because he wanted to make sure the men do not strike again. To add interest, he also offered a $1,000 reward for the identity of the men.
“They’ll only get braver,” Guertin said.
He told police the men stole a watch on Nov. 1 and another watch two days later. He said the watches combined are worth about $2,000.
“The guy stole the first watch while I was helping a customer,” Guertin said. “I didn’t notice until the store was empty and I ran the video. I knew he was going to come back, I just didn’t know when. But I didn’t figure it’d be in two days.”
Mesa police spokeswoman Diana Tapia said Guertin described one thief as a white male in his 30s wearing a gray shirt and green cargo pants. She said an accomplice also appears on the surveillance tape, but a clear description was unavailable.
Tapia said police have not received any tips, and the investigation is ongoing.
Meanwhile, the videos on YouTube generated more than 5,400 hits by Wednesday afternoon. Guertin said the media attention has had his phone ringing off the hook.
“Over 150 people have called offering to add to the reward,” Guertin said.
He said he is asking people instead to donate their money to the 100 Club, an organization that provides financial assistance to families of public safety officers and firefighters injured or killed in the line of duty.
Guertin said that after the first robbery, he and his wife printed fliers using a surveillance image. He said he noticed another watch missing while he was putting new locks on the watch display.
He said he grabbed a flier and walked over to a nearby customer who fit the description.
“I said, ‘See this guy? I got a thousand dollar bounty on his head. You know who it is?’” Guertin said as he recounted Saturday’s events. “He goes, ‘I set the watch right there on the counter.’ And I said, ‘How’d you know it was a watch?’”
Guertin said he then chased the man to his vehicle, which he described as an older white van.
“Thieves are stupid,” Guertin said. “Instead of running away, he runs to his van.”
Police were unable to release the suspect’s license plate number as it is part of the ongoing investigation.
Greg Wise, an associate professor at Arizona State University who specialized in Internet and culture, said Web sites such as YouTube have given average Americans a voice in the spirit of democracy. But he also said the rush to post images on the Internet can raise privacy and safety issues.
He said the grainy quality found on surveillance videos could make a staged event seem real.
“It could be used to falsely accuse someone,” he said.