Despite surveillance cams, sons of Grinches steal Toys for Tots and holiday displays

Many outdoor holiday heists, like stealing baby Jesus from nativity displays, are done as pranks. While that seems pretty low, there are plenty of other low-down-dirty sons of Grinches making off with other people’s holiday cheer, displays and even Toys for Tots donations.

Wanted poster for Grinch
Credit: Allen Cisneros

The holidays can bring out the best and the worst in people. Many outdoor holiday heists, like stealing baby Jesus from nativity displays, are done as pranks. While that seems pretty low, there are plenty of other low-down-dirty sons of Grinches making off with other people’s holiday cheer.

For example, a holiday heist over the weekend involved a man and woman social-engineering a Walgreens Pharmacy in Bayonne, New Jersey. The couple tricked Walgreens by claiming they worked for the Marine’s Toy for Tots charity program and then stole all the Toys for Tots donations. Shortly after they made off with the toys, Walgreens corporate office called to warn employees about “scammers pretending to represent Toys for Tots in order to steal the donations.” Although the theft was captured on surveillance video, and the couple drove off in a dark-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee, police haven’t yet caught the thieves.

Toys for Tots tk394

That theft seemed especially heinous, but there are plenty of results when searching for holiday heists caught on surveillance cameras. Examples include stealing gifts off of a Denver front porch and 30 Christmas wreaths stolen from a cemetery in Saco, Maine. Catching culprits who put the “bah” in “humbug” is one of the few times when surveillance cameras seem less like a bad thing. But like the Toys for Tots theft, capturing a thief’s image on surveillance is not the same thing as capturing the crook in real life.

When it comes to outdoor holiday displays, those thefts are often “pranks;” the owners naturally do not find that funny and many have installed surveillance cameras.

In the UK seaside resort of Redcar, a couple decorates their yard with a lighted holiday display in order to raise money for charity. But their goodwill didn’t stop crooks from stealing a three-foot Santa, three-foot snowman, four smaller snowmen, and a large gnome. Fundraisers dubbed the thieves as “scum of the Earth” and released the CCTV footage to the public.

In Tusla, sons of Grinches are grabbing holiday decorations out of people’s yards. Tulsan Bobby Woolslayer caught a culprit on CCTV as he ran away with a reindeer tucked under his arm. He said the deer-napping thief “went about it was almost like an episode of Beavis and Butthead."

In Coral Gables, Florida, a nativity scene theft was dubbed an unholy act. The police said three vandals “sprayed the statues with blue and yellow paint and stole the baby Jesus from the nativity scene." They released surveillance footage, but the quality was horrendously grainy.  

Folks who can’t afford a quality surveillance system might be interested spending $120 and using Raspberry Pi to build a low-cost HD video surveillance cam. Yet as in the cases above, catching crooks on camera is not the same things as physically catching the crooks.

Outdoor nativity display Nan Palmero

Whether it is a prank or flat-out larceny, baby Jesus is stolen so often from nativity displays that many are fitted with GPS tracking devices. Baby Jesus is not just the target of holiday heists carried out by kids; one 70-year-old woman stole the baby Jesus on a dare. The Christ-child figurine has been stolen so often in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, that the nativity is not only protected by a security system connected to the police station, but also “anyone who touches the baby Jesus is in for a shock.” Zap!

Taking a completely different approach, a store displaying nativity sets in Fargo, North Dakota, has replaced baby Jesus with a sign that states, “Please ask for baby Jesus.” Fargo police spokesman Lt. Joel Vettel went so far as to suggest there may be “a special spot in hell for you if you steal a baby Jesus.”

Grinch Allen Cisneros

While I really can’t wrap my head around why some people steal holiday displays, maybe someday their hearts will go from two-sizes too small to growing three-times the normal size; then they might realize as the Grinch did…”Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”

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