It's one of the sure signs the holidays are here. The Salvation Army's red kettles are scattered around Western New York. But in Cheektowaga, the hunt is on for the suspect behind a red kettle caper.
Police say the crook dressed up as a Salvation Army worker, took the kettle but never came back. That's when the volunteer realized they'd been duped and called police.
But this happened twice, in two different locations, within a matter of minutes.
The first was outside Big K-Mart on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga.
Joseph Nichols was volunteering, Tuesday, one day after the kettle was stolen.
He thanks donors for their contribution to the campaign.
Nichols had no idea what happed the day before.
"That's sad," Nichols said. "I'm lost for words, I don't know what to say."
Cheektowaga Police officers got to the store a little while after the kettle was taken. That was about 6:00 pm, Monday.
The Salvation Army believes the kettle could have had up to $800 inside. No one knows for sure how much was actually collected.
"For someone to take advantage of that situation, I don't know what could be more wrong," said Lieutenant Brian Gould.
Just a little while after hitting the kettle at K-Mart, police say the thief did the same thing across the street, at the Walden Galleria.
"I don't know how much lower you can get than to actually steal a basket from the Salvation Army. Maybe the person responsible will feel guilty and try to make it right," Gould said.
"There's a lot of needy families out there and I just pray that people will remember what Christmas is all about and keep people that's needy in their prayers," Nichols said.
The Cheektowaga Police unions donated $500 to the Salvation Army, in lieu of the money taken from these kettles.
The Salvation Army has instructed volunteers not to release kettles to anyone other than known personnel.
Police ask anyone with information to give them a call.