In the sleepy town of Maryland Heights, homeowners went to bed thinking all was right with the world. The family-oriented suburb with fewer than 30,000 residents doesn’t see a lot of crime, and with a median age of about 35 in the city, hooligans are mostly kept at bay.
Around 1:40 a.m. on the night of October 18, police responded to an unusual call. Someone’s decorative fall pumpkin had gone missing. The ornamental fruit (or vegetable, depending on who you ask), didn’t have any spooky faces carved into it, or any other distinguishing marks. The trail went cold, and police hoped it was an isolated event.
But then the calls starting pouring in from all over, according to the St.Louis Post-Dispatch. First in Pinehurst, then in Arrow Heights, concerned citizens called in with similar reports.
A resident saw an SUV fleeing the scene of the crime, leaving gaping holes in decorative fall displays in their wake.
There was an epidemic at hand; the work of a learned pumpkin thief was obvious. The calls were mounting, and police were starting to get a clearer picture of what they were looking for.
Then came the decisive call. In another neighborhood in Maryland Heights called Brookside, police tracked down a Subaru Forester that matched the description provided by the eyewitness. Officers were sure they’d found their pumpkin-napper, but they needed proof.
As Sgt. Jamie White approached the vehicle, he found all the proof they needed. Inside the car officers found three teenage boys, 48 pumpkins, and one gourd.
“No idea how they all fit in there,” Maryland Heights police Capt. Scott Will told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It was top-to-bottom orange. It wasn’t hard to put the pieces together after that.”
The boys were taken back to the station. The police then turned their efforts to returning the pumpkins, and one gourd, to their rightful owners.
To do so, they turned to their followers on Facebook. In a lengthy post, they recount the details of their night trying to thwart the caper. For residents of the town that woke up without a pumpkin adorning their home, the MHPD posted a photo of all the pumpkins lined up. They are urging the victims to come claim their pumpkins.
“If you woke up this morning to missing pumpkins, please contact me,” the MHPD posted on their Facebook page.
Nearly all of the pumpkins have been returned to their rightful owners and their families are happy to have them back. Unfortunately the gourd remains unclaimed and is looking for a new “forever home”.
The following day, a commenter on the MHPD Facebook post shared security footage from the camera outside their home in Maryland Heights that captured one of the thieves in action.
In the security footage, you can clearly see someone appear out of the bottom of the screen, inconspicuously scamper over to a nicely decorated porch, and take off running, pumpkin in hand.
For their night of malfeasance, the boys will all have to face the consequences. Two of the three are 18, and have been charged with misdemeanor theft. The third boy is only 16 years old and has been referred to juvenile court. When asked why they started stealing the pumpkins, none could offer an explanation.
Officers are glad that the citizens of Maryland Heights reported the theft. No matter how small, Will said, the MHPD is there for their residents.