The Grinch isn’t the only one capable of stealing Christmas — or Christmas decorations, in this instance.
Grimsby’s Renee Rebelo has had her Christmas spirit dampened and feels the person responsible might be a Grimsby resident.
Rebelo and some friends had just returned from Grimsby’s Santa Claus parade earlier this month, when they stopped by her downtown financial consultation business on Elm Street.
“I went and hit the switches but nothing was working and then one of my friends was like, ‘you don't have light bulbs in there.’ I'm like, what?” Rebelo said.
Upon further inspection, it became apparent all four of the kaleidoscope-style light bulbs placed on the outside of her property, were missing.
The light bulbs projected multiple colours onto nearby surfaces. Rebelo says each cost her $20.
Camera footage later showed a masked individual walking up to her property at 2:30 a.m. and leaving moments later with the light bulbs.
She said she found it “pathetic” that someone would steal decorations, and had this person otherwise asked for money, she’d have given it to them.
“However, it's the fact that someone felt entitled enough to just help themselves to something that didn't belong to them, because I would not do that to someone else,” she said.
She said that because it's a downtown location, the theft has made her wary of the perpetrator’s motivations.
“Was it because they wanted to make the house in darkness and they wanted to come back the next night?” she asked.
“And were (they) going to try to break in for a bigger theft? Or was it just someone who was drunk walking home from the bars, but decided this was funny?”
Rebelo said the incident means she likely won’t put up decorations in the future, not just for Christmas, but other occasions as well.
“Because if they'll take something as trivial as a light bulb, what if it was something of value?”
Rebelo said that she did not go to police about the matter, given that her suspect was masked, but she did share photos of the suspect and their visible tattoo in a community watch Facebook group, after hearing of it happening to others as well.
“Grimsby is a small town and I find that small towns, through social media, can really come together,” Rebelo said.
She said raising online awareness about a potential light bulb thief may sound silly, but “it could’ve been bigger.”
In going public with the incident, Rebelo said she hopes the perpetrator themselves, or someone they know, might see this and it might prevent them from taking future such actions.
What happened to Rebelo isn't an isolated incident. While it's hard to know how common an occurrence it is, as many may opt to not contact police, Const. Phil Gavin of the Niagara Regional Police Service notes there have been three reported incidents of decoration theft in West Niagara since November.
“The nature of Christmas decorations means that they are displayed outside and will be left unattended during long periods,” he said.
Given the niche nature of the crime and the often low value of property stolen, he said it's hard to accurately separate these incidents from general acts of theft in the police records database.
“The (suspect’s) motivation can vary to include keeping it for themselves, resale, or just for a thrill,” he said.
Gavin suggested those concerned over the possibility of decoration theft can consider doing some of the following: Keep expensive decorations closer to the house, secure decorations using a rope or a bike lock and attach them to a deep ground spike or a tree/shrub; and use an electric timer overnight that causes the decorations (lights, lasers, inflatables) to turn off or deflate. These may reduce the possibility of “spur of the moment” theft incidents.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After learning of the theft incident, reporter Moosa Imran connected with a Grimsby resident to talk about how the theft, even though it was small, impacted her decision to decorate going forward.
Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News