Man claims attempted phone theft in downtown Chico


The table at Tres Hombres where a Chico man claims his phone was almost stolen. Photo credit: Natalie Hanson

A Chico man claims his phone was nearly stolen as he ate lunch downtown, on Aug. 24.

JD Elam was eating lunch at Tres Hombres in the outdoor patio seating area when a group of what appeared to be homeless men swarmed the patio, and one man nearly stole his phone.

“I was sitting there with one of my clients when a whole group of them showed up… It looked like they cased the whole place. Eventually the one guy walked right by, right up to my table there, and just grabbed my phone. It was totally unexpected. I’ve never had anything like that happen. It wasn’t in my hand but it was right there.”

He also claimed that there were separate attempts to steal from other customers tables by the group.

Elam stated that he recovered his phone from the man almost immediately and followed him to the fountains plaza downtown in order to call the police. He claimed that he was told by a dispatcher that no action would be taken, as the attempted crime was classified as petty theft.

“They were not interested at all. Basically on the phone, the dispatch and another couple of cops told me that the district attorney does not prosecute petty crime anymore. Which is super duper lame.”

Elam also stated that after he posted his story on Facebook, the Jesus Center contacted him about a similar incident at their facility just an hour before, possibly involving the same suspect. The Jesus Center declined to comment on the incident.

While a manager at Tres Hombres, Sergio, stated that the restaurant has no log of this incident, the Chico Police Department confirmed the report by Elam. However, they disputed that petty theft is no longer worthy of arrest in California or in Chico. Reception at the Chico police station stated that many petty theft arrests take place in Chico every day.

Because it is hard to prove that petty theft took place without video, the Chico police department advises individuals to keep belongings close at hand. “We advise students and anyone out and about, especially downtown, to keep an eye on your valuables,” said a receptionist at the Chico police station.

“Be aware of your surroundings and your belongings at all times. Never leave anything out unattended.”

Prop 47 recently reduced the penalty for petty theft to a misdemeanor, not a felony, in California. Petty theft is the unlawful taking of property valued at $950 or less.

More information about petty theft laws in California is available here.

Natalie Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or @NatalieH_Orion on Twitter.