Seth Brungardt has nearly a dozen cameras mounted at his Wichita gardening business, so he’s surprised at the recklessness of all the thieves walking off with his goods.
“Not super bright,” Brungardt said in an interview Wednesday.
The owner of Well Garden Industries, an urban gardening center on Douglas Avenue, said about $1,000 worth of plants, flowers, bags of soil and other items have been stolen within the last month.
The thefts have been caught on Brungardt’s many surveillance cameras, showing three different men slinking up to Brungardt’s outdoor displays and snagging the goods.
The regularity of the thefts prompted Brungardt to nickname the thieves. There’s Cadillac Bandit, who has twice hopped out of a cream-colored Cadillac to grab hundreds of tomato and perennial plants. The Bandit even stopped by when the business was open and with Brungardt only about 40 feet away. Brungardt didn’t see the Bandit that day, but his camera did.
Brungardt shared the footage with the Wichita Police Department, which has increased patrols in the neighborhood, Brungardt said.
“I know they’re busy with violent crime — (that) takes precedent over some guy walking off with flowers,” Brungardt said.
Investigators are viewing the surveillance footage to use in identifying the Bandit and the plates on his vehicle, Brungardt added. The Bandit was accompanied by another person during his second theft.
In addition to the Bandit, there’s Bad Santa, who came by the center at midnight last month with a large trash bag, which he filled with two trays of tomato plants, Brungardt said.
“He just stuffed them in a sack and walks off like Santa with a load of toys,” Brungardt posted to his Facebook page the next day, along with the incriminating footage.
A few weeks after Bad Santa, Brungardt’s camera captured Ole Red Shoes jumping onto a pallet, snagging a bag of soil and awkwardly sprinting away.
“Red Shoes is the dirt guy,” Brungardt said. “They’re all distinctive in the way they walk or act or dress.”
The Cadillac Bandit has by far stolen the most goods, Brungardt added, estimating he’s taken about $800 in plants.
“We put big signs up, ‘Look up, you’re on camera,’ ” Brungardt said. “The dude in the Cadillac didn’t care or couldn’t read. He was right in front of the sign when he was loading stuff up.”
Brungardt described the Bandit as in his 20s or 30s, with tattoos on each forearm.
Ole Red Shoes appears to be a young adult with distinctive red shoes.
Bad Santa appears to be elderly and is bald on top.
“We leave (plants and other gardening goods) out, otherwise people don’t know we have it,” Brungardt said. Since posting the videos to his Facebook pages, Brungardt has received a lot of supportive feedback from the community.
“Most people in the neighborhood are really awesome and support us,” he said.