Detectives probe tip-jar theft at local coffee shop

A man is captured on security footage taking a tip jar from It’s A Grind Coffee House in Castaic.

When coffee shop owner Brad Lanfranco looks at empty space on the coffee bar counter where the tip jar sat before it was scooped up by a thief Thursday night, he’s more disappointed than angry.

At 7:08 p.m., a man wearing a knitted hat entered the It’s A Grind Coffee House on The Old Road in Castaic.

“He walked around the store a little bit, looking at the retail items, coffee mugs and waited until the two baristas were busy,” Lanfranco said. “Then he grabbed the tin can (tip jar), shoved it into his hat and walked quickly out of the store.”

Two deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station visited Lanfranco at his store on Friday about 2 p.m. to take the crime report. “‘We need to catch this guy,’” Lanfranco said, recalling the message from one of the deputies as they left the coffee shop.

The deputies left with store video camera footage that clearly shows the tip-jar theft happening.

“I’m disappointed that someone would do this in the first place and, disappointed that some guy, who’s about 40, would think that this is acceptable.” Lanfranco said Friday.

Tips given freely by customers wanting to thank the baristas personally with a little extra money never made into the pockets of the two college kids working Thursday.

“These are both college kids earning money for college,” said Lanfranco, who also works at The Signal as the newspaper’s advertising director and is a member of the Castaic Area Town Council.

The baristas would have split between $30 and $40 in tip money.

Deputies responded to a small rash of tip jar thefts last summer.

On two days in late June, a thief walked into a beverage shop, talked briefly to someone behind the counter and, when the worker turned away, stole the store’s tip jar, fleeing in a Mercedes-Benz.

On June 11, the Tip Jar Bandit hit the Juice It Up! shop on Sierra Highway at Via Princessa, in Canyon Country and the same thing the very next day, on June 12, around the same time, 12:36 p.m. at the Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders shop in Canyon Country.

Like the tip jar theft Thursday in Castaic, the thefts were captured by video surveillance at both the coffee shop and by the juice shop on back-to-back days were also captured by video surveillance.

No arrest was made in the “Tip Jar Bandit” crimes committed last summer.

The man who swiped the tip jar at Juice It Up! sported a different shirt, but similar baseball cap and sunglasses, and had the same type of getaway car, a black Mercedes-Benz, as the man who committed a similar heist the next day at the Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders shop in Canyon Country.

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