First, they came for Frank Rizzo. Now, it’s the Baby Jesus.
Is nothing sacred in the Italian Market?
South Philadelphia detectives were chasing a blasphemous thief over the weekend after wooden pieces of a Nativity scene — reportedly Jesus, Mary, and Joseph ― went missing from Ninth and Montrose Streets on Saturday morning.
It was possibly the area’s most sacrilegious heist since October 2017, when a 70-year-old woman with an oxygen tank allegedly stole a Pope Francis cutout during bingo night at a Gloucester County church.
In trying to crack the Nativity case, police initially asked for the public’s assistance in locating a “white male with a beard, wearing a dark jacket and blue jeans” —about as common in South Philly as a gray squirrel with a fluffy tail is in Wissahickon Valley Park.
As it turned out, a surveillance camera caught the thief in the act, and detectives were able to save Christmas for the neighborhood. Police announced Sunday afternoon that South Detectives were led to an address in the area, and that the stolen items had been recovered and returned to the spot below Rizzo.
“The family is cooperative, but the offender was not on location and is not in custody. Investigation continues,” Sgt. Eric Gripp, a police spokesperson, said in a statement.
The caper brought TV news crews back to a corner of the Italian Market best known for a huge mural of the former mayor that vandals love to deface. In August 2017, Rizzo took a particularly nasty shot of paint to his nose as the debate raged over his treatment of minorities.
The Nativity scene? A sign there reads: “Smile. God Is Watching You & So Are We!”