Eight hours was all it took: From the time the thief's picture went online, to the image going viral, to the moment he contacted us to 'fess up and promise he'd bring the property back.
It was after a gig a couple of weeks ago that my friend's trombone was stolen from the venue. The surveillance video shows the thief walking off with the horn, showing it to some people and disappearing.
Every one of us in the band had been the victim of theft before, so we were upset, angry and raw. But this time things were different. Rather than stand around and feel helpless, we had two things on our side that would allow us to take command of the situation: a photo and social media.
Each of us knows that feeling of violation and vulnerability after a theft, and the ineffective, simmering anger at the thieves themselves. We want to see the thieves' karma come back and slap them. Hard. We want revenge. We want our stuff back .
And that's where social media comes in.
A recovery service has been started on Facebook called the Kern County Instrument Recovery Taskforce. It's already helped some owners get their gear back. Ripped-off musicians still should go the traditional route: File a police report and hit the swap meets, yard sales, pawn shops, Craigslist, etc.
But using social networking tools like Facebook has become perhaps the most effective tool at putting the word out. Just recently, a well-known drummer in town discovered his favorite snare had been stolen out of his car. He spread the story, and fast. Eventually, a friend of his was at a swap meet, saw the drum and instantly texted a photo to the musician. Case closed.
Though hard numbers are impossible to find, word-of-mouth seems to support what many musicians have been feeling over the last year or so: More and more gear is being stolen. Most theft comes when bad guys see an opportunity -- a turned back, leaving gear in a car.
But there is more that we can do, including:
Keep a log of serial numbers. This precaution will be useful if your stolen gear is found.
Venue personnel aren't responsible for the gear of the musicians playing there that night, but it would help if staffers could be on the lookout for patrons who have an unusually avid interest in the guitar sitting on stage or for people helping themselves by "helping" load the band's gear.
We have to look out for one another. As the case of the trombone thief proves, if we band together as a community, we can get results with a few pushes on a keyboard. There were 400 shares of the horn thief's photo within eight hours. As a town we are at our best when we embolden each other. This mentality is less "Get the thief," and more "Let's help Joe."
It worked. It brought out the best intentions in us by reflecting our own need to stop the worst ones.
-- Cesareo Garasa is a Bakersfield musician who contributes columns on music and pop culture to The Californian.