‘Serial thief’ targets art gallery’s display

Japanese Gallery thanks customers for pandemic loyalty

Friday, 10th September 2021 — By Millie Cooke

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David Wertheim at the Japanese Gallery

A GALLERY owner has revealed the frustration of thieves stealing cards and prints from displays in famous Camden Passage.

David Wertheim said one offender had targeted the Japanese Gallery once a week before finally being caught by police.

He is now hoping the case will put an end to a one-man crime wave, but said businesses in the iconic art and antiques quarter always had to be on guard.

Mr Wertheim told the Tribune that police had warned the gallery against displaying items outside of the store front – but this was part of what made his businesses work.

“All these shops along here in Camden Passage have to put things up outside to bring people in,” he said.

“We’re trying to do all we can but if we don’t do that then we don’t get the sales. To be able to operate as an independent retailer, you’re up against so many obstacles. Theft becomes then another added thing.”

According to Mr Wertheim, occurrences like this are common in the area, with thieves stealing from outside of store fronts in order to sell the items on elsewhere.

“It is something that does come along quite regularly unfortunately. Islington is a very safe area but theft is something that all independent businesses do suffer,” he said, adding: “We have WhatsApp groups to try to alert each other but unfortunately it’s not something that can be avoided fully.”

“It was quite frustrating for us because this one man was constantly, constantly coming back.”

When asked by the Tribune what is being done doing to protect small businesses in this position, the Metropolitan Police said that “store security is the responsibility of the business owner.”

The gallery, which specialises in Japanese art, has been running since 1978, making it one of the oldest businesses in Camden Passage.

Like the other businesses on Camden Passage, the gallery was shut down during lockdown but Mr Wertheim said that they were able to stay afloat thanks to support from the local community.

“It has not been an easy period, but because we’ve been around for so long we’ve got our regular supporters that continue coming to us,” he added. “We’ve definitely felt that support from the community which has been amazing.

“It might be just a few quid here and there but by the end of the week it really makes a massive difference for us. So we’re very thankful to the community for that.”

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