Police: Security cameras lead to arrest in burglary of Bellingham office

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 18, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - Thanks to a well-placed security camera, Bellingham police arrested a man suspected of stealing thousands of dollars' worth of computers and electronics from a chiropractic office on North State Street.

It would not be the first time police arrested Thomas Christopher Daniel, 28, of Bellingham, based on security images.

Back in 2010, surveillance cameras caught Daniel charging $34 to a stolen credit card at a market near Lake Whatcom. A Bellingham police detective recognized him on the tape. Daniel went on to confess to other thefts - a Nikon camera worth $5,500 and a laptop worth $2,000, for example - and explained he'd sold them to support his heroin habit. A Whatcom County Superior Court judge sentenced him to serve more than three years behind bars and to pay back $10,900 to five victims.

Detectives believe Daniel got caught again committing a crime on camera in late March 2014. Someone jimmied open a back door at Natural Way Chiropractic, 2000 N. State St., and stole cash, seven computers, scanner-copiers and another pricey Nikon camera. (No patient information was compromised, said Dr. Eddie Hanson, the business owner.)

A night-vision camera on the second floor captured the man's face as he turned down a hallway. In the footage, he hid his face and retreated. After Hanson released the video to The Bellingham Herald and Seattle TV media, police got a flurry of tips from people thinking they recognized the man.

One tip directed officers to a stash of electronics Daniel had stored at a woman's home, said Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht. Detectives don't think the woman realized the property had been stolen; she isn't suspected of any crime.

Two days after the release of the video, police had probable cause for Daniel's arrest. A patrol officer spotted him in the early morning hours of Thursday, April 17, near the Haggen on Meridian Street. He had less than an ounce of heroin on him, Vander Yacht said.

Thirteen out of 31 pieces of stolen property - including a camera, a laptop and a desktop computer - have since been recovered, according to Vander Yacht. Insurance covered much of the loss for the business.

Daniel faces charges of first-degree theft, second-degree burglary, possession of heroin and violating his Department of Corrections probation. He has a total of eight prior felony convictions, all for drug- or theft-related crimes.

On Thursday, Superior Court Commissioner Edwin Simmers set his bail at $50,000.

This case is a good example, Vander Yacht said, of how security cameras or an alarm system can help to ward off or catch burglars.

"Quality of security cameras is just a lot better than it used to be," Vander Yacht said.

Reach Caleb Hutton at caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2276. Read his Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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