Community-friendly art gallery repeatedly targeted by thieves

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter

HOUSTON - In the past two years, suspected thieves have targeted the Houston Center for Photography repeatedly, and on Thursday morning, it happened again.

“It’s traumatic to be woken up in the middle of the night and know that your space where all of your employees come every day, where your artists work, is being broken into and violated,” said Ashlyn Davis, executive director and curator of the Houston Center for Photography.

Davis said she receive a call around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday from the center’s security company. When police arrived, they found someone had broken into the building and stolen three Mac laptops, totaling about $5,000 worth of equipment.

The suspected burglars tried to enter the digital darkroom, which was locked, but left once the motion sensor detected them.

The two men in hoodies left the room once the lights turned on.

“It seems like they were deterred by the fact that the lights came on, which is great, because this is where we put all of our efforts,” said Jan Rattia, director of education for the center. “We’ve always had them locked, but definitely we have increased our level of security because of the equipment we have in here."

Surveillance showed the two males making their way into the photography library, where they stole the computers in minutes.

“They didn’t bother to disconnect anything. They picked them up and yanked them,” Rattia said.

It only took the burglars a matter of minutes to break into the building and steal the Mac computers.

Davis said thieves have targeted HCP four times in the past 2 1/2 years.

“It’s interesting because we have updated security every single time. We have gotten extremely thick glass. These individuals knew what they were doing and have been here before very clearly,” Davis said. “They knew where the cameras were, the sensors were. They broke into the same exact window. It seemed like a well-learned path for them.”

Davis said she hopes the people get caught and believes they are targeting the art district.

“To know that these individuals are out here, they have done the same thing to other institutions in the neighborhood, they seem to be targeting nonprofit art spaces, looking specifically for Mac computers,” Davis said.

She said even though $5,000 worth of equipment was taken this time, in the past it’s been more, plus the cost of having to fix the window.

“It’s an enormous impact on staff time. We will end up fundraising for additional security updates. That fund, those funds could go towards a scholarship for a student or an exhibition for an artist,” Davis said.

HCP offers a free gallery to the public and offers workshops and classes to artists and students.

“This is what we do for the community, local student and local artist, and having these local resources being taken away from us is incredibly frustrating because as a nonprofit, we do really struggle to regain those resources,” Rattia said.

Copyright 2019 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.