Tip jar thief caught on camera

Sandbar owner says man only made off with $18
In this screen shot from surveillance video taken at the Sandbar & Grill, a man is seen holding the tip jar he stole at about 12:40 a.m. Monday. Juneau police identified him Thursday as Joseph Robert Lofstrom, 30.

If Sandbar & Grill owner Gail Niemi could tell the man who stole their kitchen’s tip jar one thing, she says it would be, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”


Niemi said surveillance cameras in the restaurant captured the thief stealing $18 in tips — “jar and all” — at about 12:40 a.m. Monday morning. The footage has since been turned over to police.

The video shows a man walking in the main kitchen entrance about two hours before closing time. He greets a couple sitting at a table, the only customers there at the time, as he makes his way to the counter.

While waiting a few moments for an employee to appear, the man surreptitiously takes the large plastic tip jar located next to the cash register, conceals it under his jacket and walks out the door. The entire incident took only a minute or two as the employee was in the back making beef sticks, Niemi said.

The brazen act outraged the bar’s employees and compelled them to take action. They printed out a screenshot of the man taken from the video footage and flashed it to bar patrons on Tuesday and Wednesday. The word “Thief” is scrawled in red letters above the photograph.

A bartender posted the same screenshot of the suspect on Facebook and Craiglist and asked residents to call police if they had any information about the case. The Craiglist post is listed under the category of “Wanted.”

Some 50 people had responded by Wednesday morning, many of whom speculated as to the man’s identity. The Sandbar passed along some of the information they received to police in hopes of aiding their investigation.

“What’s so incredibly cool about this, though, is through Facebook and Craigslist, within six hours they knew who the man was,” Niemi said. “That’s just amazing.”

Police have not confirmed the man’s identity, and as of Wednesday afternoon, no arrests had been made. Lt. David Campbell, a spokesman for the Juneau Police Department, said they are aware of the incident.

“We’re working on it,” he said by phone Wednesday.

Niemi, who opened the Sandbar with her husband in 1981, is confident that the footage will help police make an arrest. All the social media attention is helpful, too, she said.

“He’s world-famous for $18,” she said.

She added, “For all the little burglars out there, they better be paying attention because it’s way too easy to get caught these days.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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