A serial thief has been caught on surveillance video targeting businesses and eateries in Kearny Mesa, often ordering food that takes a while to prepare and using that time to steal things.
The crimes are happening in the popular restaurant district on Convoy Street, home to a large Korean community. Many business owners tell NBC 7 the thief has been preying on the businesses for years and was jailed about three years ago for similar crimes in the area.
Retired San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officer Jack Lee said the suspect is as brazen as ever.
Lee said the man often targets Korean restaurants and uses the same strategy each time: he orders kalbi – expensive Korean beef – knowing the dish takes some time to prepare.
“While the owner is preparing [his food], he commits this crime,” Lee explained.
Surveillance video captured on March 27 at Josun Korean BBQ located at 4681 Convoy St. shows the suspect reaching for a phone at the hostess stand three times. Finally, he steals the phone and then walks out of the eatery.
Moments before the theft, the video shows the man casing out the business, then putting his hand in a woman’s purse and stealing a wallet from inside the bag.
Lee believes the man is intentionally targeting Korean businesses, owners and customers for a reason.
“Koreans are very private,” he told NBC 7. “They seldom report to the police officers about this crime, and maybe he knows that.”
According to Lee, he knows of at least a half-dozen crimes of this nature linked to the suspect over the last few months. And, despite his prior arrest and time in jail, it appears the suspect is still at it.
“[He] came out and [is] doing the same thing again,” said Lee.
Many business owners on Convoy Street are now aware of this man and some have installed new surveillance cameras at their businesses as a result.
“This guy needs to be caught again,” Lee added.
Police are investigating the series of thefts. Lee said anyone who recognizes the suspect should call police and, if you’re a victim, Lee said you should file a police report.