Calgary Sun - - NEWS - — SHAWN LO­GAN

Cal­lous thieves who tar­get poppy fund boxes re­main a plague for the lo­cal char­ity that sup­ports veter­ans, even amid Cal­gary’s eco­nomic re­bound.

ac­cord­ing to Cal­gary po­lice, some 27 poppy boxes were swiped be­tween oct. 27 and Nov. 12, the same tally as last year. out of this year’s haul of pur­loined poppy boxes, only five peo­ple have so far been charged, po­lice said.

For John rath­well, gen­eral man­ager of the Cal­gary Poppy Fund and veter­ans’ Food bank, the crime is par­tic­u­larly heinous as it takes money and sup­port away from those who put ev­ery­thing on the line for their na­tion.

“It is dis­heart­en­ing to see peo­ple have to stoop to these lev­els,” he said. “If it’s a cou­ple of dol­lars you need, I’m sure there are many agen­cies, in­clud­ing ours if you’re a vet­eran, that can help you get by.”

It’s been a rocky num­ber of years for the lo­cal poppy fund, which had seen a spike in the thefts of col­lec­tion boxes dur­ing the city’s eco­nomic down­turn.

In 2014, po­lice re­ported 18 poppy boxes had been pil­fered, a num­ber that soared to 42 the next year. This year’s num­ber ex­actly match last year’s mark of 27.

rath­well said pro­ceeds from the col­lec­tion cam­paign di­rectly serve veter­ans, go­ing into a trust ac­count used to help with ev­ery­thing from med­i­cal ex­penses to ed­u­ca­tion bur­saries for de­pen­dents.

de­spite the sober­ing statis­tics, rath­well said this year’s cam­paign ap­pears to have been fairly suc­cess­ful thanks to gen­er­ous Cal­gar­i­ans, though the fi­nal to­tals won’t be com­piled un­til the end of the month. dave Howard, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Legacy Project, was also sad­dened to learn col­lec­tion boxes con­tinue to be tempt­ing tar­gets for thieves. “It’s cer­tainly up­set­ting that peo­ple are tak­ing away dol­lars that are go­ing to veter­ans,” he said. “Cal­gary has been go­ing through some tough times the last cou­ple of years so I guess I can un­der­stand why those num­bers are still high.

“but I re­ally be­lieve if peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stood where those dol­lars were go­ing, we’d have less peo­ple steal­ing them.”

even though this year’s poppy cam­paign is fin­ished, rath­well said the char­ity con­tin­ues to col­lect do­na­tions for veter­ans. Those in­ter­ested in help­ing can visit the Cal­gary Poppy fund’s web­site.

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