Wayne Powell’s prayers were answered last week when police arrested and charged a man alleged to be the “poppy bandit.”
Powell, vice president of a local Royal Canadian Legion branch, was disgusted when officials discovered about 17 poppy donation boxes stolen from local retail stores, during their annual poppy distribution campaign.
“It just makes me sick that somebody would think so little of the veterans that sacrificed so much to keep the liberty of this country alive,” Powell said.
The campaign ran from Oct. 31 through to Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, with proceeds going to the Poppy Trust Fund, used to aid war veterans in their aging years. When police released security camera images of the suspect on Nov. 17, Powell said he was “hoping and praying” someone would recognize the “scum bag” and turn him in.
Police say the man they arrested was known to police and reports say he was spotted by officers in the early morning on Nov. 18 – just hours after the images were released. They had been captured on retail surveillance cameras, around the Kingston Road and Morningside Avenue area stores that had been targeted by the poppy thief.
Based on the honour system, people donate money to the boxes, usually placed near the cash register of retail outlets, in exchange for a poppy. A random sampling of other boxes in the area led the Legion to estimate in excess of $2,000 in losses, as each box typically brings in between $100 and $125.
Two of the stolen poppy donation boxes were found discarded in the laneway behind the Kingston Road Swiss Chalet at Lawrence Avenue East, with the tops ripped off. All of the money was taken out of one, and just pennies were left in the other, Powell said.
Police say local residents are also very happy the “poppy bandit” has allegedly been caught. “Theft of anybody’s property has an effect not only on the victim but can impact the rest of the community,” Staff Sgt. Cook of 43 Division said.
Regan Collings, 29, of no fixed address, is charged with multiple counts of theft and breach of probation.