Update December 2013: Sadly, Troop 374 didn’t have a 2013 Christmas Tree Lot. A lack of staff, the ongoing theft of trees and poor sales the past two years forced them to close.
The Grinch is alive and well and living in St. Louis. Or at least a reasonable facsimile.
We could see her — that’s right, her — in video surveillance footage from local TV station KTVI-Fox2. In 2009, this woman stole one Christmas tree from Boy Scout Troop 374. Last year, she stole another. And this year, she’s already stolen two!
Troop 374 has made selling Christmas trees a holiday tradition. For more than 50 years, it has used the proceeds to fund its great Scouting program. “This tree lot pays for everything we do year-round,” Scoutmaster Nick Kobel told FOX2. ”It pays for the tents, all the camping gear. Every tree counts; every little bit counts.”
Now this Grinch is spoiling Troop 374’s Christmas custom — again. So let me editorialize for a moment. Dr. Seuss wrote that his green villain’s “head wasn’t screwed on quite right” and its “heart was two sizes too small.” Sound like the scoundrel seen here?
Theft is always unacceptable, but this takes “wrong” to a new level. I mean, she stole Christmas trees. From a Boy Scout troop. On church property. During the holidays. One question for you, Ms. Grinch: Why?
But I have to step down from the soapbox and face reality. Boy Scout Christmas tree lots have always had to deal with thefts.
So what can you do to stop this despicable act?
Try these five tips to stop Christmas tree thieves in their tracks:
- Lock your trees by tying them to stakes, like Troop 374 did, or chaining them together so they’re harder to move individually.
- Secure your lot by surrounding it with fencing — electrified barbed wire optional. Sure, this won’t stop the most-determined thieves, but it will slow them down.
- Install motion detectors. Just Google the phrase “motion detector alarm” and you’ll find a variety of options. Some connect to a phone line and will remotely — and silently — call you when they detect movement. Other, cheaper units simply sound a high-decibel alarm.
- Hire round-the-clock security. An expensive option, sure, but nothing beats a visible human presence. If you have enough willing volunteers, you could always enlist parents or troop alumni on their winter break from college to do this for free. Offer all-you-can-drink coffee, and/or give them a discount on buying a tree for themselves.
- Set up surveillance cameras to record thieves. This didn’t thwart the annual thefts at Troop 374′s lot, but it did give police valuable evidence. An inexpensive webcam connected to a computer could serve this purpose. Or if you have Wi-Fi at your lot, a device like a Dropcam will instantly alert you on your iPhone or Android whenever it detects motion.
And if a tree still gets stolen, follow the trail of pine needles.
How does your troop prevent this sort of theft? Share ideas by leaving a comment below.