Thieves steal Salvation Army kettles from bell ringers outside East Bay stores

The Salvation Army red kettles are meant to symbolize help and hope during the holidays. But they may now be targets for thieves instead. Two kettles were stolen in less than a week in the East Bay. 

The first incident happened on Saturday in Martinez. Salvation Army Major Gwyn Jones says a man with a clipboard approached a volunteer in front of the Lucky supermarket and told him he was with the organization and had come to pick up the kettle. He even convinced the volunteer to sign off and hand over the kettle. Major Jones said, "I phoned Tim I said, 'Tim why'd you go home early?' He said, 'I didn't. One of your guys came and got my kettle.' And I said 'Oh that wasn't one of our guys.’” 

The imposter made off with hundreds of dollars that was meant to help the community.

"It's sort of shocking. I nearly cried the other day cause I was thinking about it. Why would somebody do this? There's nothing weird happening with this money. It's going to the community to help people,” Major Jones lamented. 

Then Tuesday afternoon they were hit again. A woman bell ringing in front of the Concord Hobby Lobby was attacked. Police say a man threw some kind of greasy liquid on her before taking the kettle, hopping on a black bicycle and getting away. She declined any medical help and is doing fine. 

Brandon White's second year as a bell ringer. This is the first he's heard of red kettles being targeted. He said, “What went through my mind was to be alert and watch out. Look around be aware of your surroundings."

KTVU reached out to Martinez and Concord police. Officials said no suspects are in custody and they do not believe these crimes are related. They’re looking through surveillance video for more clues into who the suspects are. 

Major Jones said safety wasn't a big concern before but that may change. "So now we are going to reinforce to our volunteers and our paid workers, make sure you stay really close to that kettle. Make sure it's locked on the chain properly and just keep an eye [out] if you see people."

He’s asked that the kettles and money be returned and had a message for the thieves. 

He said, “They're hurting other people and if they need help then they can come to us and we will help them."