Local News

Some Thieves Will Steal Just About Anything

Posted February 21, 2001

— Thieves usually go for cash or things that can easily be fenced for cash, but there are times when a thief will grab just about anything.

On Valentine's Day, Kelly Holzknecht discovered a thief had been through her house. The thief was not after her TV or computer, but a gift she had purchased for her boyfriend.

"[It was] some valentine candy and a present, and in its place was a turned over beer bottle with about half a beer left in it," she says.

Last December in Henderson, someone stole an entire phone booth from a convenience store. In November, thieves stole five hugecast-iron potsfrom Pleasant Green United Methodist Church in Orange County.

Last summer, two churches in Wake and Franklin Counties reportedstolen bells. Police later found the bells and pots, but they did not find the thieves.

"They need to get their hearts right, so they won't have to worry about the bells," says church deacon George Nichols.

Jim Hugerish, director of Chapel Hill Police Department's Crisis Unit, says part of his job is to get inside the criminal mind to put reason behind acts of the unreasonable.

"I think the primary reason why people take things is opportunity," he says. "There's an adrenaline hype with it. There's a sense of excitement in there. Can I do this? Can I get away with this?"

That addiction for a challenge may be what drives school loyalists to climb the rafters of their rivals to steal the symbols of their success.

Five years ago, someone stole N.C. State's 1983 championship banner. Thieves recently climbed the rafters at Duke University for a Grant Hill banner and at UNC for one honoring Michael Jordan.

"This is Michael Crichton stuff. This is John Grisham stuff," Hugerish says.

Last summer, a thief managed to cut down and cart off a giant-sized flag right off theState Capitol'sface. Hugerish says an unlikely theft may be a cry for help.

"I remember a 56-year-old woman who was walking down the middle of grocery store aisles, and she would be whipping up her skirt stuffing things in her underwear," he says. "Her response when she was finally arrested was, 'I've been wanting for years to be arrested again.' It doesn't make sense for most of us."

Holzknecht wonders why a thief would break into her house for candy.

"It still left me really frightened and feeling violated that somebody was in my space," she says.

Police also answered a burglary complaint in north Raleigh a few weeks ago. Arif Bustani's front-door lock was broken. The only thing that was missing from the home was a meatloaf pan.

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