A baby Jesus statue was stolen from a Nativity at a New Jersey church for the fourth time in the last five years on Saturday.
The baby was taken from Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church in Sayreville, New Jersey, and was captured on video. It occurred around 8:20 p.m. Saturday night, according to the video which the church hopes to use to catch the vandals and have the prop which costs around $100 returned.
"Our Nativity is very close to the road and we actually had video surveillance that we had installed because of the multiple times [the baby Jesus] has been stolen and it looks like it's a prank," said Deacon David Mikolai, who serves at Saint Stanislaus, to The Christian Post. "It looks like there's two guys that just for the novelty they're [stealing] it, I have no idea why."
Mikolai explained that the baby was also stolen last year and in 2011. Before this year the church was never able to find the culprits because they did not have video surveillance set up.
"This year we did and we'd been checking the manger scene every morning just because of the multiple times it's been stolen and on Sunday morning we notice it was missing and the surveillance company played it back frame by frame and they were able to ascertain that I happened about 8 p.m. on Saturday," continued Mikolai.
The Sayreville Police Dept. has posted the video on its website and the church's pastor, Kenneth Murphy, posted it on his Facebook page in an effort to raise awareness in the community to get the statue back. The response to the pastor's post was overwhelming as it receivesd over 500 hits in just an hour's time, according to Mikolai.
"I think there's a good chance [to get it back] because there's a good view, a good facial of the people who [walked] off with it," said Mikolai.
The statue only costs around $100 so it doesn't hurt the church monetarily. However, it holds deep sentimental meaning for those who attend especially since Saint Stanislaus just celebrated its 100th anniversary in December.
"It's a very joyful time with the [100 year anniversary], and then the joyful time of Christmas and this [theft] just seems to work against that," he said.
Although Mikolai can't tell for sure, he leans more toward this incident being a prank than a hate crime.
This is certainly not the worst attack the church has seen to its property. Back in 2007, vandals attacked the manger scene causing $550 worth of damage and destroyed a large cross on its cemetery which was around a half mile away from the sanctuary. The total damage cost around $46,000 to repair. The culprits also stole around 27 baby Jesus statues from other communities.
"I'd say that was probably a bias crime; I think these are an act of vandalism or a prank, but it's annoying because it keeps happening," concluded Mikolai.