SEATTLE — It is the ultimate Christmas crime: Baby Jesus figurines are the number one stolen item at some area Christmas stores.
Theft of outdoor manger scenes is not new. Five were stolen in one year in Port Angeles. It has been an ongoing problem at a private manger scene outside the state capitol in Olympia where three have been stolen. Seattle's Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church had a five-dollar plastic baby Jesus stolen from its nativity scene last December. "It was as tacky, as cheap, as garage sale baby Jesus, mom and dad as you could get," said Pastor James Carney.
It is not just outdoor nativity scenes. Some Seattle-area retailers say baby Jesus is the most shoplifted items during the Christmas season.
"Everybody likes a baby," said Gregory Musick at Kaufer's Religious Supplies. "They never steal the wise men or camels or anything like that. It's always baby Jesus.
Washington state is not alone in its Yuletide transgressions. In fact, "Baby Jesus Theft" has its own Wikipedia page. There are dozens of security videos on YouTube that capture men, women and children stealing young Jesus.
When asked, tongue in cheek, whether it is a violation of more than one commandment when you steal baby Jesus, Pastor Carney responded, "Well, I certainly would hope so. I think, being candid, your mortal soul's in danger. Is it a kidnapping? Is it something they want, a devotional aid for their home? If they do, then why don't they get the whole set? Why is it just Jesus?"
As Christmas approaches, many people are looking for divine intervention, or in some cases insurance to prevent more trouble in Bethlehem. "There is a company that will insure your manger set. There's a company that has a special "baby Jesus" rider for churches and for stores, said Carney.
This year, Pastor Carney said Capitol Hill Presbyterian will go without a nativity scene.
“There'll be no baby Jesus. You'll have to come into the church and find the real Jesus, but in terms of the tacky, lit-up, plastic baby Jesus that we got from our garage sale, there will not be any baby Jesus and we can't put out Mary and Joseph cause that just looks kind of sad.”