Greater Sudbury Police have made an arrest in the case of the missing poppy donation boxes.
Starting Nov. 4, businesses and members of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 7 have reported the theft of 20 poppy boxes, contained both poppies and an undisclosed amount of money, from store countertops.
Over the past week, police said in a news release this morning that members of the Break, Enter and Robbery (B.E.A.R.) Unit, with the assistance of uniform patrol, have been investigating each theft complaint and working with local business owners to secure surveillance video footage from each incident.
As a result, a 29-year-old Sudbury man has been arrested in connection with the thefts.
Greater Sudbury Police took an unusually strong stand in announcing the arrest of the alleged thief, calling the act "morally and ethically despicable."
"Historically, the Poppy Campaign has been based on the trust and honesty of community members where the poppy boxes are easily accessible to the general public," police said in a news release. "The thefts of the poppy boxes in our community are not only against the law, but the actions of these individuals are morally and ethically despicable."
Police also said the thefts struck a chord with members of the public, explaining they saw an exceptional level of community involvement and assistance in trying to solve the crimes.
"This type of crime and breach of trust is not socially acceptable in our community," GSPS said in the news release.
Police have identified Michael Petryna, 29, as being responsible for at least seven of the 20 poppy box thefts. On Nov. 9, he was arrested and charged with seven counts of theft under $5,000.
The BEAR Unit has identified a second man responsible for two other poppy box thefts, police said, and efforts are underway to locate and arrest him.
If you're one of the thieves and you're reading this, police have a message for you.
"If you are responsible for any of the thefts (and you know who you are) our officers are actively looking for you, so you may as well turn yourself in."
The annual Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s most important programs, police said. The money raised from donations provides direct assistance for veterans in financial distress, as well as funding for medical equipment, medical research, in-home services, long-term care facilities and many other necessities.