Thieves pay tab with stolen tip money

Surveillance image from James' Grill in Denham Springs of thieves
Surveillance image from James' Grill in Denham Springs of thieves

DENHAM SPRINGS, LA (WAFB) - Thieves are bouncing between stores in Denham Springs and Walker, LA taking cash out of tip jars, stealing cell phones and more. Each time it appears they've been caught on camera. But police need help identifying the people involved.

James' Grill in Denham Spring has been a popular place for years. Whether it's someone coming in for a cold drink or a regular in for one of the daily specials, the workers can pretty much call their customers by name.

For the nine years that the Campbell's have owned it, they've never had the problem like the one they had in January.

"The police are doing all they can," said Kimberly Campbell. "Maybe the public can help and get these guys off the street."

January 21, 2013, she says she was on the grill and her mother was behind the counter, their usual spots. Campbell says a man walked in and went straight back to the restrooms. When he came out he stopped at the counter and said there were no paper towels. She believes that is when the man first tried to lure her mother away from the register.

"But she keeps a roll of paper towels behind there, so she just handed them to him."

Campbell says the man looked around for a while and then left. But seconds later, came back with another man.

Video from the security cameras that day shows the men come in and begin browsing a menu. They then start asking Campbell's mom about her collection of gnomes behind the counter. When she turns around to pick one up to show them, one of the men reaches into the tip jar.

"They grabbed three handfuls of our tips and one time when she turned around, he reached around the corner and grabbed her money bag from underneath the register," said Campbell.

The video then shows the man counting the money, near the edge of the counter, before leaving. But the workers say he did return a small portion of the money he took.

"They ordered food and paid for it with our tips."

Campbell says when her mother noticed the missing bank bag they watched the security tapes and once they saw what had happened they quickly called police.

That's when they learned they were not the only victims.

Campbell says they were told a store down the road was robbed the same day, but in that robbery, the thieves took $2,000.

Not only that, police in Walker believe the same group stole from the AT&T store there twice. They say while two from the group distracted the workers, a man went to the bathroom which was across from an open stock room. When they left, the store realized four iPhones were missing.

Campbell is hoping someone recognizes the group and she's warning other stores to be on watch.

Denham Springs Police, Walker Police and the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office are all investigating. They say if you can help, call Crime Stoppers at 344-STOP.

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