Modesto Bee Story: By Jeff Jardine
Published – 9/17/14
When Kyle Barker arrived at his music store just off McHenry Avenue on Wednesday morning, the police were waiting for him. So were owners of some nearby businesses.
He knew immediately that such a welcoming committee couldn’t possibly be a good thing, and this was no exception. He’d had other visitors overnight, they told him, and likely very early in the morning. The intruders threw a rock through the glass of one of the store’s doors, went inside and helped themselves to 15 guitars and four keyboards, one being a Yamaha Tyros 5-76 model valued at $5,000. They took a set of waist-high congas, which are like bongos on DGHs (drum growth hormones).
They also trashed the office and one of the studios, taking a laptop computer, flat-screen monitor and more than $500 in cash, for a theft of nearly $13,000. Whoever coined the old phrase “God helps those who help themselves” probably didn’t mean they should help themselves to other people’s property. But like it or not – criminals like it, victims don’t – crime is part of everyday life here in the Valley and in most other places on the planet as well.
When Barker went inside the store, he found a baseball-sized rock that was used to shatter the window. The rock was on the floor next to a folding chair at the end of a hallway, about 35 feet from the doorway. “The guy must have a pretty good arm,” Barker said, showing off the rock.
Consequently, Barker, who has owned music stores in Modesto, Turlock and Manteca at different times over 40 years, spent the morning assessing the damage. He moved his store from the 500 block of McHenry to the 3100 block 14 months ago.
He’s been through burglaries at least a half-dozen times over the years, including several break-ins when he had the Turlock store and a theft in Manteca many years ago in which they later determined the crook entered the store during business hours and hid in one the studios.
“There were two guitars missing and $50 from the till,” Barker said.
When the same thing happened again five days later – this time the thief got $50 and four guitars – he grilled the store manager.
“ ‘At least you could have hidden the money and checked the place (before leaving for the night),’ ” Barker told to the employee. “He said, ‘I did. (The thief) must have watched me hide it.’ ” The crook had hidden in the bathroom.
Wednesday’s take, though, far surpassed the others in the number of items stolen and the total dollar value. Barker spent his morning compiling a list of missing inventory and broken door jambs. He called the glass company to come put new panes into the door. He called the alarm company to repair a unit that had stopped working. He visited with the police community services officer who dusted for fingerprints, and he also met with his insurance agent.
Eleven instructors give lessons in the store’s nine studios, he said. About 225 families have members who take lessons at various times throughout the month, not to mention customers who come into the store to peruse the guitars and pianos. Barker thinks it is possible or even likely the burglars knew the store layout well.
“An inside job,” he speculated.
All of the guitars, keyboards and electronics stolen have serial numbers. Only the conga drums do not, Barker said. And he filed a police report immediately, making it tougher for thieves to pawn the stuff or sell at the flea markets.
Not the same for musician Jim Wells, whose trumpet and flugelhorn were stolen from his car while he was at P. Wexford’s Pub on Friday night. The Police Department was closed.
“I had to wait until Monday to get a case number,” said Wells, a KAT Country radio personality who uses the on-air name “Jungle Jim” but also is an accomplished horn player. “(The thief) got a head start.”
Even so, music stores and instruments generally aren’t targeted simply because they can be harder to fence, according to the Modesto police. More often, they hit cellular phones because phones and electronics are easier to sell quickly, police contend.
Yes, Barker said, he has insurance to cover the losses, less the deductible. No matter.
Arriving at work to find the place has been burglarized would begin any owner’s day on a sour note.