WENHAM — A group of community leaders, including the police chief and chair of the Select Board want the public to know that whoever stole two Pride flags from outside the First Church and the Wenham Museum last weekend does not represent the values of the town.
"It's important that the community and public knows it's a great place to live and work," police Chief Kevin DiNapoli said during a press conference Tuesday outside the police station.
The department is still investigating to identify whoever is responsible for taking the flags from outside both buildings sometime late Friday or early Saturday.
It was the second time that flags — a Pride flag outside the church and a Progress flag, which is considered to be an updated and more inclusive flag acknowledging multiple marginalized groups, outside the museum — had been taken from the buildings since May.
Select Board chair Catherine Harrison called the thefts "a saddening situation," and something that she found "disappointing and a little bit surprising" in the town.
While acknowledging that so far, police have no solid leads, DiNapoli said his officers "are taking this very seriously and investigating it in every way we possibly can."
DiNapoli was asked whether hate crime charges could be pursued. It's not clear at this point whether they could be, but the culprits would likely face theft charges at a minimum.
"It's never OK to steal anything from anyone and obviously, now, with the times we're in now, this is a really emotional event for a lot of folks," said DiNapoli. "It really impacts a lot of people because of what was stolen, and we don't take that lightly."
The Rev. Judy Proctor, the pastor of the First Church of Wenham, pointed across the road to the church. "The flag that we fly over there across the street is really important to us," Proctor said. "It's a symbol of who we are. We want to be open and compassionate to all people, particularly LGBTQ people."
Proctor said she would be open to a dialogue with the culprits if and when identified, calling it "sad" that some people felt the need to steal the flag.
"I'm not sure what they're trying to accomplish," Proctor said.
But the thefts have helped galvanize the community, she said. "The community has really come together for us," said Proctor.
Wenham Museum executive director Kristin Noon said she was disappointed and dismayed by the theft, the second since the spring at the small museum, which she calls "a welcoming and inclusive environment for all people and all families."
"This doesn't really reflect the values of Wenham or of our organization," Noon said. She said the replacement flags ordered by a member are on the way and the museum will continue to fly the flag.
Noon said that the museum is also working with police to review surveillance images that, they hope, will provide some clues.
Anyone with information about the incidents or video can reach the department at 978-468-4000.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis.