SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 6, 2013

Toys for Tots donations stolen in Danvers

Jonathan Phelps
The Salem News

— DANVERS — Police say up to $4,000 worth of Toys for Tots donations were stolen from a storage container on Andover Street Wednesday night.

The container was broken into, and various toys were stolen from a resident collecting the toys for the charity at his home, said police Lt. William Carleton.

“There are some leads they are trying to run down,” he said.

The incident is still under investigation, as is the exact amount of toys stolen. The $4,000 amount was reported on the department’s Facebook and Twitter social media pages last night.

Carleton said the only description of a vehicle involved is a “large dark-colored late model.”

“It is just a shame someone would do something like this,” said Danvers resident Ray Jalbert, the commandant of the Essex County Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Jalbert said Andover Street resident Bert Russell, who is in his 80s, has been collecting toys for the program for about 20 years. Russell is a Korean War veteran and a former police officer in town, he said.

Jalbert said about four large boxes of toys were stolen. There could have been a couple hundred in there, but the exact number is unknown, he said.

“We locked them up,” Jalbert said.

Russell noticed a car in the driveway around 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to Jalbert. Russell thought it was a Marine loading more toys into the storage box, but it turns out it was the thief or thieves.

The car took off on Route 114 and headed toward Middleton. The incident was reported to police shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday, Carleton said.

“He went down in the morning, and the lock wasn’t on it,” Jalbert said. “So, he opened it up, and the four boxes weren’t there.”

Jalbert, who has been working with the program for the past eight years, said this reminds him of an incident in 2010 when 1,500 gifts collected for Toys for Tots were stolen from a locked storage facility in Burlington. The stolen toys were valued around $15,000.

In the meantime, Danvers police and fire departments are taking donations to help replace the stolen toys, and they’ll make sure they get to the right place, according to the department’s Facebook page. 

Danvers police reported on Twitter last night that they are already seeing overwhelming support and commitment online. There were 26 comments on the department’s Facebook page as of 10 last night.

“There are no words to describe how low someone can be to steal from kids at Christmas!” one post read.

“Who would steal from the kids that have the least? Shame, shame, shame!” another read.

The mission of the Toys for Tots program is to collect new, unwrapped toys to distribute to the less fortunate in the community in which the campaign is conducted, according to the program’s website. It is run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Jalbert said he understands that many families are going through tough times. He has a message for the person or people responsible: “If you really need it, fine. If you don’t need it, return it in front of the home with no questioned asked.”

Jalbert said he is impressed with the outpouring of support to replace the toys.

“People are asking where they can give,” he said.

Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at jphelps@salemnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.