It's one holiday tradition churches, homeowners and other groups would like to see end: The perennial theft of baby Jesus from nativity scenes.
Thefts from manger scenes across Pennsylvania have been reported this Christmas season.
In one of the most recent incidents, decorations including baby Jesus were pilfered from a Juniata Township woman's front yard earlier this week, state police told PennLive.com.
The tradition isn't new; it's become so ubiquitous that there's even a Wikipedia page devoted to Baby Jesus theft. While reliable statistics on the number of such thefts aren't available, a flurry of police reports and news articles about the crimes surface every December. Last year, one Seattle television station reported that some retailers there say baby Jesus is their most-shoplifted item during the holiday season.
The thefts, often attributed to someone wanting to pull a prank, are so prevalent that one company, BrickHouse Security, has a "GPS Jesus" program that offers free GPS devices to churches and nonprofits so they can track the location of any stolen statues.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, baby Jesus was also taken from a nativity scene in the Pine Grove town square in Schuylkill County, the Republican Herald reported. Jesus was replaced after an outpouring of support from the community.
"It breaks your heart to see something like this," Richard Becker, chairman of the Pine Grove Area Christmas Lighting Committee, told the newspaper. "It's disturbing, and people in Pine Grove are very upset, but a lot of people are reaching out to help our committee."