AUGUSTA — Who would steal Christmas trees?

That’s what local police are asking after the theft of more than 50 Christmas trees from an American Legion post parking lot on Eastern Avenue over the past two weeks.

Proceeds from the trees, which are being sold by the North Whitefield chapter of the Knights of Columbus, are used to support local charities.

“Typically, we sell 100 trees, and that’s the money we donate,” American Legion Grand Knight Bob King Jr said. “Now we’ve been hit for 55 trees, so half our money is gone.”

The Knights have been selling trees outside the Legion building for about a dozen years, King said. The trees are donated by a local property owner, and the Knights give away a couple dozen every year to organizations such as the Maine Veterans’ Home. The remainder are sold during daylight hours for $20 per tree.

King said the Knights decide what to do with the money in January, but that Maine Special Olympians has been a favorite cause. The Knights also like doing individual acts of kindness, he said, such as filling up an oil tank for a family that needs a little extra help.

“All the money we raise, 100 percent, goes to charitable causes,” King said. “It depends on what the needs are at the time. It all stays local.”

King said he’s never worried about trees being stolen. On the contrary, the Knights have always relied on the honor system. People routinely take a tree and leave money, or return and pay, if no attendant is available.

“We’ve never really kept track of it,” King said. “We’re on American Legion property. Nobody attacks the American Legion. and we’ve been out there a dozen years. People know its the Knights of Columbus.”

Last week, however, King got a call informing him that 26 trees had been stolen sometime over the previous few days. King called Augusta police on Friday, which agreed to step up the number of patrols in the area.

King cut another 36 — real beauties, he said — and put them out for sale. When he arrived Tuesday morning. he found someone had taken 30 of the new trees.

“They took the biggest trees there,” King said. “For someone to get the 30 best trees, they knew what they were looking for.”

August police Sgt. Mark Desjardin said his department still is looking into the thefts but that there is little information on which to build an investigation.

King believes the trees must have been taken after 10 p.m., when there is less traffic on Eastern Avenue. Still, he believes someone must have seen something.

A couple dozen Christmas trees, after all, can hardly be concealed in the trunk of a car.

“They either made several trips or they had a couple of big trucks,” King said. “They had to be moving pretty quick.”

Charity is the first mission of the Knights of Columbus. It’s a cause that King and his fellow Knights take seriously, especially during a holiday season when so many are struggling financially.

“It’s a crying shame,” he said. “This is the season when we try to help everybody.”

Augusta police ask anyone who may have information related to thefts to call 626-2370.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

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