CHATHAM – There are those who like sharks, and those who really like sharks.
And can't keep their hands off them.
Once again, the Sharks in the Park have proven just too tempting. Video surveillance cameras recently captured someone attempting to steal one of the sharks from Kate Gould Park. Luckily, the five-foot painted fish, mounted on a long metal rod, was either too big or too unwieldy – or both – for the thief to carry away or stuff into a vehicle and it was left behind.
“People can't get them into vehicles easily,” noted Janice Rogers, who coordinates the Sharks in the Park project for the Chatham Merchants Association.
Last year, two Sharks in the Park were taken. As with the recent incident, one was abandoned not far from the front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library. But a second was whisked away and police later arrested three men on Barcliff Avenue, who had dropped the shark nearby. The shark, sponsored by Yankee Ingenuity, was undamaged and returned to its display position.
“It's not a joke,” Rogers said of the thefts, adding that the three men who took the Yankee Ingenuity shark were given probation and required to write a letter of apology to the Merchants Association.
The most recent incident occurred June 10, probably around midnight. The shark was found about 6 a.m. Saturday morning in the town parking lot off Chatham Bars Avenue, apparently undamaged. Rogers said she reviewed security camera footage from the previous night and the thief was caught on tape, but it was difficult to identify the culprit. The footage was turned over to police.
Chatham Police Lt. Michael Anderson warned anyone thinking of taking one of the sharks that security cameras are trained on them 24 hours a day. There are more cameras than in previous years, he added. “There are some you can't even see,” he said.
The shark taken last week was sponsored by Minglewood Homes and painted by artist Heather Labbe and was located at the edge of the more than 40 sharks now on display in the park. It depicts the Stage Harbor lighthouse on one side, and a basket of blooming hydrangeas and the outer beach on the other. Rogers said in last year's auction of the sharks, one created by Labbe received the highest bid.
Bids on the sharks in the park now on display are being accepted at biddingforgood.com through Aug. 19. Half the money raised goes to the artists and half to support the merchants' programs and events.
The shark sculptures will move from Kate Gould Park to the front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library on June 29, Rogers said.
Organizers took steps this year to better secure the sharks, not only with additional security cameras but also by making it more difficult to separate the shark from the metal rod as well as anchoring the rods more firmly. Rogers said it would be unfortunate if people continue to try to take the sharks.
“I would hate to not be able to do this,” she said. “It's something people really enjoy.”