By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — You see them in stores a lot, especially this time of year: Coin collection jars on the checkout counter that raise money for charitable causes.
It might be for a child battling cancer, or perhaps to support a local organization such as The Salvation Army or the Ozzie’s Kids charity, which helps needy children at Christmas.
When you drop some spare change or maybe a dollar bill into the jar, you expect your donation will make its way to the charity.
But this week, some of that money went into the pockets of two slick thieves, police said. Investigators are warning owners and workers at stores accepting such donations to watch for thieves, especially during the holiday season.
Police said a jar containing about $50 in coins and bills was stolen from the counter of Nathan’s Sandwich and Variety Shop at 135 Washington St. The theft was reported to police by the owners of the business at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Police said the owners were able to review the incident on surveillance video, which investigators plan to watch in hopes of identifying the thieves.
The owners of the store said they were helping to raise money for a good cause, and to have someone take the collection jar is just plain wrong.
Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said two men walked into the store and one of them distracted the female clerk while the other walked up to the counter and took a plastic jar containing money for the Gerrish Breast Care Center at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport.
You can’t reach into the jar to take money because coins and bills are inserted through a slot, the store owners said.
“The woman noticed it was missing after the two men left,” Thompson said of the jar.
“It was kind of low,” Thompson said about taking money intended for a charity.
He said one of the suspects was wearing a gray sweatshirt or coat with a hoodie and blue jeans and black-and-white sneakers, and the other suspect wore a red coat with a hoodie and jeans.
Neither man was wearing a mask, he said.
“It’s kind of rare, but it does happen from time to time,” Thompson said about the theft of donation jars. “Every now and then, a jar is set out for a worthwhile cause and somebody will help themselves to it.”