Thai restaurant goes online to fight vandals

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 12:31 05/08/2014
THAI CONTAINER/Facebook

The security video taken moments before the attack on the restaurant.

Thai Container
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ
'I'D DO IT AGAIN': Ren Bell, of Thai Container, who posted security video of a young man allegedly damaging his property to Facebook.

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When a vandal smashed the Thai Container in Christchurch, the owner turned not to police, but social media.

Thirty minutes after posting security video on his Facebook page, owner Ren Bell had the alleged offender's name - and an apology.

The video shows a well-dressed young man walk on to the site about on Saturday. He looks at a security camera then disappears from screen. About 30 seconds later, the camera is destroyed.

The damage tally included two security cameras, gas piping, a flood from towels placed in the sink and the taps turned on, a door and stock, totalling about $2000.

It was the fourth time Thai Container had been targeted by vandals since Bell and his wife set it up in May 2011. They lost their central city restaurant in the quake.

Bell reported the three earlier incidents to police, giving them security footage, but heard nothing.

This time, he decided to do his own sleuth work and says he would do it again in a heartbeat.

Bell offered a $500 reward for whoever "can deliver this guy", uploading the security video on the restaurant Facebook page.

"If he had a bad pad Thai all he had to do was say and I woulda hooked him up with a freshie and his money back ... now he got half of Christchurch gunning for him [sic]," Bell posted.

Within half an hour, the man "handed himself in" by sending Bell a private message.

The young man, alerted to the post by friend, said he was sorry and agreed to meet Bell at a hamburger restaurant to sort out reparation and settle things privately.

Bell said he waited an hour last night, but the young man was a no-show.

So Bell handed the footage, the man's name and details to police today, telling them, "job is done, see you in court", he said.

"It goes to show the guy's an absolute clown. He could have avoided all of this," Bell said.

"Police gave me the whole, innocent until proven guilty thing, but people in Christchurch have a right to know.

"Even if police told me not to, I'd still do it again. I'm getting plenty of humour out of it all."

Bell expected the publicity was a good deterrent for other would-be vandals. It had also garnered a lot of public support.

"Now I really truly comprehend the power of social media," he said. 

Detective Sergeant Darren Folau said social media was a platform that police also embraced. 

"It's pleasing the online community can resolve these issues quickly," he said. 

But he added using the internet to identify criminals carried "inherent dangers" of naming the wrong person and creating "issues of natural justice".

Police did not condone vigilantism, Folau said. 

They would attempt to speak to everyone involved to resolve the incident quickly.

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- The Press

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