Edmonton

Autographed guitars stolen from Edmonton charity recovered at Calgary pawn shop

A collection of autographed electric guitars stolen from an Edmonton music charity has turned up at a Calgary pawn shop.

The instruments were set to be auctioned off to raise money for a music enrichment program for at-risk youth

"You may have made a bad choice but it's not too late to make it right," Edmonton Rock and Roll Society executive director Todd Crawshaw says. (The Rock and Roll Society of Edmonton)

A collection of autographed electric guitars stolen from an Edmonton music charity has turned up at a Calgary pawn shop.

Todd Crawhaw, executive director of Edmonton's Rock and Roll Society, said staff at the Sharky's International pawn shop had heard about the recent theft and refused to make an offer. 

"The staff had heard about the story so they knew what they were looking at when the guitars walked in," Crawshaw said Wednesday.

"They stalled the perp, called the Calgary cops, and he's now in custody." 

The guitars, worth thousands of dollars, had been missing since Easter Sunday when thieves smashed through the windows of the society's headquarters in southeast Edmonton.

"It was a fairly rude awakening," Crawshaw recalled in an interview with CBC Edmonton's Radio Active.

"The ne'er do wells broke open the full glass door, set off the alarm and they had less than a minute to go straight to the guitars that were displayed on a wall ... and straight out the back door."

I would like to think that these thieves had no idea they were stealing from a children's charity.-  Todd  Crawshaw

The instruments were set to be auctioned off to raise money for a music enrichment program for at-risk youth across the city.

The group usually fetches up to $5,000 per guitar at auction, and the proceeds will provide a year's worth of funding for the charity's Centre for Arts and Music Program (CAM).

The charity hires mentors and musicians to teach children how to play instruments, form bands, write songs, and perform. About 380 kids have gone through the program since the charity formed in 2010.

'Not too late to make it right'

Crawshaw said he didn't care about catching the criminals, he just wanted to see the stolen items returned. 

"I would like to think that these thieves had no idea they were stealing from a children's charity," Crawshaw said. 

'They knew exactly what they were looking for.' - Todd  Crawshaw

Crawshaw believes the theft was targeted. Only autographed guitars were stolen, while other more valuable instruments were left behind.

"The guitars that were stolen, without the autographs, they would retail for maybe $150 or $200 — not a heck of a lot of money — but it's the autographs that make them invaluable.

"They knew exactly what they were looking for, exactly where they were. And what I can say? They got away pretty quickly."

The stolen guitars included a red Fender Stratocaster autographed by Janis Joplin's original backing band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and a Fender Stratocaster signed by Jefferson Starship.

Also stolen were a pink Fender Stratocaster signed by Canadian rockers Sweeney Todd, a black Fender Stratocaster signed by then-mayor Stephen Mandel and a black-and-white Fender bass autographed by artists at the Edmonton Rock Music Festival in 2012.

Crawshaw said he was initially angry about the crime but an outpouring of support from the Edmonton community has softened the blow, and ensured the thieves would have a hard time finding a buyer.

"If I ever underestimated the power and the support and the love that we have in our local music and rock and roll community, I feel ashamed for that."