ROCKLAND — A children’s camera unknowingly lost in Rockland was returned to a five-year-old in Illinois, thanks to a bit of detective work by a Rockland police officer.
As it happens, the officer is a real-life detective and the child may be an unintentionally budding photojournalist, both acting in different capacities to get a device home.
They made a fine team, despite the fact that they didn’t know each other, and likely never even caught sight of one another.
Last month, Ellen Castleberry and her family, of Brookfield, Illinois, spent a day sailing in Rockland with her Camden in-laws, Tom, Kristin and Ben Resek.
Upon finale of the sailing trip, Castleberry’s husband and in-laws derigged Tom’s boat while she and 5-year-old son, Theo, played in the park. Theo ran about snapping photos until it was suddenly time to go.
Back in Illinois, the parents then realized the beloved camera’s absence.
They searched high and low through their suitcases and the Illinois house, considering all of the airports, rest stops, and parks they’d visited, while Tom searched his boat in Maine.
“There are hundreds of pictures on it so losing it would majorly upset him,” said Castleberry. “After we unpacked all of our bags and still couldn’t find it, we started to get really worried. We hid from Theo that it was lost but he was definitely starting to suspect something.”
In the meantime, a stranger walked into the Rockland Police Department to turn in a camera clearly made for a younger child.
“We went through the photographs on it,” said Detective Alexander Gaylor. “It kind of told the whole story, which was interesting. We could just follow the photographs that this kid had taken.”
They followed the photo trail to Snow Marine Park, where the pictures ended, and the camera was eventually found, he said.
But, of course, pictures don’t automatically come with labels. Gaylor could see the boy and various local landmarks, but had no names to attach. Until, that is, a photo appeared, visibly showing advertising on a van – Tom’s van. Atomic Tommie’s Electric Bikes.
By calling the phone number on the van, Gaylor made the connection, and the camera was returned.
“Theo’s so happy and impressed that his little camera was on such a big adventure,” said Castleberry. “We’re also so thankful that the police made the effort to do some detective work and get the camera back to its rightful owner.”
The PD has experience tracing wallets back to their owners, which is often easy because officers can reach out to the financial institutions labeled on the wallet’s bank cards. Cell phones are also commonly found, and can be harder to trace because they are often locked, according to Gaylor.
Tracing a lost camera’s origins is a first for Gaylor, but just as gratifying in the end.
“Especially when it’s a kid, you want to give him back his things,” he said.
Reach Sarah Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org