A thief with a get-out-of-jail-free card

Published 10:40 pm Monday, April 7, 2014

The story circulating in Suffolk last week about a man in a late-model black SUV taking bags left outside homes for collection by a veterans group is disturbing on a couple of levels.

A woman living in the Kilby Shores area said the man took a bag of children’s clothes from the front of her driveway, and that one of her neighbors, along with folks in the Bennett’s Pasture Road area, were also targeted.

The manager of the affected group, the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Hampton-based pick-up service, said he had fielded two reports from the previous two weeks, both from downtown Suffolk.

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The city of Suffolk rightly pointed out that taking items from beside the curb, where many people leave them for collection, is in fact not stealing. Bags positioned as such are “fair game.”

But it’s still stealing. The man in the black SUV knows very well that bags of items intended for a veterans charity are still bags of items intended for a veterans charity regardless of whether they are placed on a private porch or a few feet away beside the curb.

Police can’t take a report, because technically it isn’t stealing, but this guy driving around in an SUV — which, incidentally, was described as a relatively expensive vehicle, not a pile of junk — should know that he’s still a thief. And, since the items were to be sold to thrift stores and the money used to provide services to veterans everyone else seems to have forgotten about, he’s the lowest of a low bunch.

It’s a calculated move on his part: He knows the police can’t charge him with stealing. It’s a no-risk venture. This lowers his standing in the rogues gallery even more, to the point where he really should do some soul-searching. He’s certainly no Al Capone or Ronnie Biggs. Considerably less class, in fact.

The man is described as dark-haired, olive-complexioned, 5 feet 6 inches tall, of average weight, and he drove a “clean” black SUV, according to the city.

Kendall Courtney, manager at the veterans group, has asked donors to take steps to conceal any items that might be perceived as valuable. Hide them in boxes or bags.

Also, be sure to place items on private property on the porch, not at the end of the driveway. That will strip the thief of his get-out-of-jail-free card.