Usually, it’s humans who have to worry about sharks in Chatham — not the other way around.
Three women were caught on camera last week attempting to steal a large piece of shark-shaped artwork on display in a park in the center of Chatham for an annual fund-raiser.
The outdoor exhibit is part of the “Sharks in the Park” program, which raises money for the Chatham Merchants Association each summer through the sale of the sharks at auction.
Video of the attempted theft was posted to YouTube Monday by Jerry Evans, one of the artists who made a shark for the exhibit and was fed up with people trying to purloin the shark art.
“Usually, we don’t have anything happen until the real summer crowds come here, so it was disappointing to have something already go on,” said Evans, who set up six cameras in the park this year. “We just want to keep the sharks in the park, and not have them walk off.”
The surveillance footage posted online shows the women strolling through a collection of the intricately painted and designed cutouts at Kate Gould Park, as they try to decide which ones to pluck from the ground and scram with.
In the five-minute video, which includes multiple camera angles and clear audio of their conversation, one of the alleged culprits can be seen picking up a shark before the three women start running toward the park’s exit.
After leaving the exhibit briefly, the three women return to the scene to possibly steal a second shark.
As they peruse the artwork to make their next selection, the women realize that there is “video monitoring in progress,” according to the video posted to YouTube.
“Maybe we should move that back?” one of the girls asks her friends.
“Are we going to get arrested?” another can be heard saying, amid laughter.
Realizing there is more than one camera stationed nearby, one of the women disappears from the park and then returns with the shark artwork that she had stolen earlier. The video then shows her trying to place the shark back into the ground.
“As long as you’re on camera putting it back,” one of the women says, as her friend struggles to push the posts supporting the shark artwork back into the grassy ground.
After the shark is back in place, the women can be seen posing and taking pictures in the park before finally leaving.
Evans said this isn’t the first time that thieves have targeted the artwork for the annual auction, which is billed by Chatham officials as a “signature summer event.”
“We had one stolen last year, and it never came back,” said Evans. “Historically, we have had some taken every year, but usually they have been found.”
He said these types of attempted thefts typically occur after last call, when the bars let out and people are in a “drunken stupor.”
He said usually people realize how large the artwork is once it’s been torn from the ground, and then give up on their efforts to haul it from the park.
“They either throw them in the bushes, or they end up on beaches,” he said.
Evans said he posted the video of the most recent incident to send a message to the public: please, leave the sharks be — they’re expensive and benefit a worthy cause.
“We just thought we’d get it out there,” he said. “We do want them to realize it’s serious.”
He said Chatham police are aware of the incident, and it’s under investigation. However, he hopes it doesn’t lead to anyone getting a criminal record.
Chatham police did not immediately return a request for comment.
The shark art will stay on display at Kate Gould Park until June 27, before it’s moved to the Eldredge Public Library, where it will remain through August.