Social media helps catch pub thief

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The owner of a Salt Lake City bar used social media to catch a thief. That thief took something that's legally necessary for the business to operate -- especially this New Year's.

When you go to a bar, the bouncer has to scan your driver's license. But when a patron stole the scanning device, the owner of this bar turned to social networking -- and it worked.

Monday, at 1:30 a.m., as employees of Piper Down Pub, 1492 S. State, were closing for the evening and getting patrons to walk out the door, someone took a handheld electronic scanner used to read the bar codes on driver's licenses.

Owner David Morris posted video of the customer-turned-thief on the bar's Facebook page and on YouTube.

The surveillance video shows a man leaving the pub early Monday morning. The video shows six people walking from the pub into the front entrance area. One man, while still holding a female's hand, first picks up a pen from the hostess stand, puts it down, and then decides something else is more appealing. He then casually picks up an electronic bar code reader and walks out with it.

"People make bad choices, especially after a night of having some holiday cheer. They senselessly steal. It doesn't make any sense," Morris said.

As part of the landmark legislation in Utah that eliminated the private club system, lawmakers required bar owners to install electronic devices and to retain the data collected off scanning driver's licenses and IDs for seven days to aid in police investigations of alcohol-related crimes.

Some of the people in the video have been identified, but the main culprit (pictured here) was not known.
Some of the people in the video have been identified, but the main culprit (pictured here) was not known.

To the public, however, the scanners are useless. Special software and equipment are needed for anyone to read or download the information collected. After a week, the scanner automatically purges all the information collected, so no information would have been compromised.

Morris said for his business, the scanner is essential. It's state law. The night after the theft, his staff was forced to manually write down the ID numbers of everyone who visited that night.

Morris isn't sure if the man knew what he was taking or was just after anything that wasn't secured to the stand that he could fit in his coat pocket.

The employee working the door when the device was stolen was going to have to pay the $900 to replace it.

That employee was working Wednesday night when the man called to say he had taken the scanner and would bring it back. He said he had heard the video that caught him in the act was online.

After posting the surveillance video, Morris said he received calls from friends identifying some of the people in the video, but the main culprit was not known until Wednesday evening.

The man told him he was drunk when he took the scanner.

"We just want to let everybody to know this town's a little bit too small to not get caught doing bad things, so you definitely want to make sure you're minding your P's and Q's and all that," said the bar's bouncer Chris Jensen.

The bouncer called police, who said they would come over and arrest the man for a felony. He says the man seemed sincerely sorry, so he did not press charges.


Story compiled with contributions from Sandra Yi and Pat Reavy.

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