CHATHAM – Authorities are hoping to identify a man who stole one of the decorated Sharks in the Park from Kate Gould Park early Sunday morning.
The shark was found along the shoulder of Main Street in South Chatham a short time later. While it was damaged, the artist who created it is making repairs and it should rejoin the other 50-plus sharks in the exhibit when they move from the park to the front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library on Wednesday.
This is the second attempted theft of a shark from this year's exhibit, sponsored by the Chatham Merchants Association. In the early morning hours of May 25, video cameras caught three young women looking at the sharks before taking one, then returning it when they realized they were being recorded. They were never officially identified.
After that incident, the park was plastered with signs announcing the video surveillance. Rogers doesn't understand how the most recent thief could have missed those signs, although she noted that the man who took the shark kept his head down and wore a hat, perhaps to avoid being seen by the cameras, which did capture the escapade. A screenshot of the man was released by police and was to be posted on fliers around town in hopes that someone will recognize him, Rogers said.
In the video, the man wearing shorts, a polo shirt and baseball cap is seen entering the park around midnight and taking selfies with the art. He walks around the exhibit, at one point with another man, before the two head out the Main Street exit toward the Squire. He then comes back about 15 minutes later and removes the Beach Bum Surf Co. shark at about 12:22 a.m. Rogers said doormen at the Squire conformed to police that the men had been in the tavern Saturday evening, Rogers said.
At 12:42 a.m., officer Sean Ryder found the shark along the side of Main Street near Cockle Cove Road, according to police.
One of the metal poles on which the sharks are mounted was missing and the other was bent at a right angle. Rogers said the shark “looked like it had road rash. We think it probably fell off a truck or got run over.”
Beach Bum Surf Co. owner Candace Bouffard, who also painted the shark, said there were scratches and gashes on it and the tail was damaged. “Nothing I can't fix,” she said, although the fact that someone would steal a Shark in the Park – which not only provide enjoyment to many people but also help raise money for the community – troubled her.
“We really work so hard on those,” she said of herself and the dozens of other artists who create the sharks. “It's just terrible that people would steal these.”
The Beach Bum shark, which features a whimsical scene of seals in the water on one side and VW bus on the beach on the other, had already received a bid of $350 in the online auction set up to sell the art, making its theft a felony, said Rogers. Even though it was recovered, if the thief and any accomplices are identified they will be prosecuted, she said.
Each year the Sharks in the Park exhibit has been held, one or more sharks have been taken. Most were recovered; only one, stolen last year, was never found. Rogers appealed to the public to identify the thieves, noting that the photos they took of themselves with the sharks may have been posted on social media.
“Somebody's going to know who they are,” she said.
Because Chatham Band concerts begin in Kate Gould Park this Friday evening, the sharks are being moved to the front lawn of the Eldredge Public Library, where they will stay through the end of the summer. The video monitoring equipment that's kept an eye on the exhibit at the park will also move to the library.
Anyone with information about the theft should contact Officer Ryder at 508-945-1213 or call the police department's anonymous tip line at 508-945-TTIP (8847).
For more information about the sharks and the auction, visit www.sharksinthepark.net.