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Tattoo removing machine stolen from nonprofit

March 29, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A very expensive tattoo removing machine was stolen from a Westwood District nonprofit organization that used it to remove tattoos from former gang members.Pieces of glass remain on the floor at Sunrise Community Outreach, the shattered window representing shattered dreams. The Westlake nonprofit clinic was burglarized Thursday night as thieves made off with a $50,000 machine used to remove tattoos of former gang members.

"It's gone. Someone did not know what they did, that they just took not a laser machine from this office but the whole community," said Maria Maldonada of Sunrise Community Outreach.

"That wasn't just a machine. To be honest, that machine was just a piece of metal. It was our future, our goals, our dreams," said former gang member who wanted to be identified as "Reuben."

Reuben has been coming to the clinic for six years. His face is now free of tattoos, while the rest of his body still shows the effects of more than a decade of gang life. He came to the center to provide a better example for his two young daughters, but also because this clinic doesn't charge thousands of dollars for tattoo removal.

"We do it between $30 and $95 max. So people, they come here and they are like, it is practically free," said Maldonada.

"There's no way I could afford or pay with community service," said Reuben. "They open the doors to me, now the doors are closed," said Reuben.

A man was seen on surveillance video pushing the machine on the sidewalk around 10:30 p.m. Thursday, but so far no arrests have been made.

"What I'm telling people is our program is on hold. Until we find a machine, we have no business," said Maldonada.