While taking a morning stroll around her yard Monday, Virginia Quintana said she noticed two propane tanks had been stolen from the back of her 24-foot 1998 Coachmen motor home. She immediately notified police upon her discovery, she said, but then decided to take matters into her own hands — placing a sign asking for the thief to return her property under penalty from God.
“This camper was blessed with holy water many years ago, and the items that you have taken off the camper has holy water and is holy name,” Quintana said, “and we’re praying to God and the Blessed Virgin Mary for you to please return these canisters, no questions asked, just put them by the camper.”
Quintana said she thinks the tanks were taken sometime during the weekend. Members of her church are praying that the tanks be returned, she said, and she is asking that others do the same.
Quintana, a devout Catholic, has lived in Ottawa for 65 years and said the recent incident is only the second time a theft has occurred on her property in the 900 block of North Cherry Street. While she said she realizes the 5-gallon propane tanks are not priceless and could easily be replaced, she’s more concerned about the principles at risk.
“I can [replace them] but you took them, you should bring them back. You took something, return it,” Quintana said. “If you’re going to take something, return it, or you’re going to deal with God.”
Quintana’s problem is not an isolated incident. Last year was one of the worst in recent years for thefts in the community, Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said.
“Theft — generally in most jurisdictions, and ours is not any different — it drives your crime rate,” Butler said. “And our crime rate last year, and I don’t have the final statistics on theft, but we did see an increase in crime last year, and almost all of it can be attributed to an increase in theft.”
A lot of personal thefts can be prevented, Butler said, by residents using common sense and being diligent.
“It can be prevented by locking their car doors, locking their homes when they’re not there, keeping valuables out of sight in their cars, especially when they’re unlocked, and just taking routine precautions to safeguard their property would reduce the number of thefts in our city,” he said.
Property stolen out of vehicles was a common trend in 2012, Butler said. About 70 to 80 percent — a conservative estimate, he said — of vehicle thefts involved vehicles left unlocked.
Butler emphasized he was not suggesting Quintana didn’t take proper precautions with her property. The police chief said she did the right thing by reporting the theft to law enforcement. No matter what the cost of the lost property, Butler said, it always is worth reporting.
“One, if you don’t report it, we don’t know it’s occurring,” Butler said. “Two, a lot of people don’t report it because they think it’s a hassle or an inconvenience or an issue for them to have to deal with, and I understand that. But, in order for us to have a better idea of what’s happening, reporting it is the only way for us to know.”
A statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary, now stands guard over Quintana’s motor home, with the plea to the thief to return Quintana’s property sitting nearby.
“It’s out of my hands,” Quintana said. “I know people have a lot of things stolen. This is what I’m doing because I don’t know what else to do.”