By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — For the second time in the last week, a charity collection jar was stolen from a business — just what police said to watch for during the holiday season.
It contained an estimated $140 and was taken from the Taco Bell restaurant at 31 Plaistow Road by a man wearing a black hoodie, a jacket and a hat, investigators said.
While police search for a suspect in this latest charity jar theft, they said they managed to catch the person who stole a charity jar from a downtown variety store last week. That person is expected to be summonsed to court on charges of larceny under $250, which police said is a non-arrestable offense.
Police said that on Tuesday about 8:05 p.m., the Taco Bell manager reported a man had walked into the restaurant wearing a black hooded sweatshirt which covered his face. The man was also wearing a tan jacket with a hood that was pulled up over his face. He also wore a hat, police said.
Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said the manager was suspicious of the man from the moment he entered the building due to his attire, and refused to serve him unless he took off his hat and hoods.
“The man said, ‘No,’ then reached towards the counter and grabbed a large donation container that was attached to a thin steel rope,” Thompson said. “The suspect broke it away and ran out the door.”
Thompson said the suspect was seen running from the Taco Bell and into the parking lot of the nearby Longhorn Steakhouse, where he got into an older model green vehicle and drove away. Thompson said investigators do not believe it was the same man who last week stole a charity collection jar from Nathan’s Sandwich and Variety Shop at 135 Washington St.
“We have been able to identify the person who took the jar from Nathan’s and that person is being charged with larceny under $250,” Thompson said. “Patrolman John Spero was able to identify and locate the person because of the store surveillance video.”
Police said a jar containing an estimated $50 in coins and bills was stolen from the counter of Nathan’s on Nov. 6. The theft was reported to police by the owners of the business at 6:30 a.m. that day.
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 (owner) noticed it was missing after the two men left,” Thompson said.
“It was kind of low,” Thompson said about taking money intended for a charity. “Every now and then, a jar is set out for a worthwhile cause and somebody will help themselves to it.”
Police said the charge of larceny under $250 is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail or a fine of not more than $300.