As thousands of people across B.C. prepare to honour the contributions of Canadian Veterans, police are engaged in a different kind of Remembrance Day operation.
Investigators in New Westminster and Nanaimo are on the hunt for men accused of stealing donation tins collecting money from poppy sales.
In New Westminster, police say the alleged thief entered the Royal Canadian Legion at 631 6th St. to order food on Thursday.
After the man had paid and left, staff noticed that the donation can for poppies had vanished — and upon reviewing video footage, realized the suspect had hidden the tin while he paid for his meal. Staff found the tin outside after the incident, empty.
WATCH: Video shows man stealing poppy donation box from New Westminster Legion
Terry Leith, vice president of the New Westminster Legion said the man left a tip in pennies and foreign coins when he paid, raising suspicions this wasn’t his first donation theft.
“Which is what you normally find in a lot of the poppy cans. So we kind of figured that he’s done this before because there was a can stolen from the New Westminster Credit Union just up the street, and we found that can behind the Legion Manor.”
Leith said cans have also been stolen from the Royal Columbian Hospital and local Boston Pizza.
“It’s disheartening that people will go around and do this,” he said.
“We understand that people are homeless, but in that case the legion is here to help. And that’s all they have to do is come in and ask and we can do what we can for them.”
The suspect is described as between 50 and 60 years old, Caucasian and balding with grey hair and a grey beard. He was wearing a two-tone sweatshirt.
In Nanaimo, police believe they may have a serial poppy tin thief on their hands.
Nanaimo RCMP report five different poppy donation cans being stolen over the last week at Tim Hortons, McDonald’s and Delicado’s restaurants, the Pomme Natural Market and an unknown insurance company.
Investigators don’t know the exact date of the thefts. However, police released images of a male suspect who allegedly took the tin from Delicado’s at 6851 Aulds Road in north Nanaimo.
“Investigators are currently reviewing video surveillance from several of the locations,” said Const. Gary O’Brien in a media release.
“These kinds of thefts are considered opportunistic and are easily preventable and, sadly, we can expect more of the same in the days leading up to Remembrance Day.”
WATCH: Anti-theft Poppy donation boxes unveiled (2016)
Police are reminding businesses with poppy donation tins to ensure they are fastened securely, using zap straps or screws. The tins should be kept in a clearly visible place and regularly emptied, police added.
Anyone with information on the thefts is urged to call the New Westminster Police at 604-525-5411, or the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345.
-With files from Jill Bennett
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