Thieves target local Boy Scout Troop; police searching for suspects

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NORTON, Ohio - Boy Scout Troop 132 is left scrambling to replace camping equipment stolen from the storage shed at the United Methodist Church where it had been stored.

The break-in was discovered in the week between Christmas and New Years.

Although the storage building is used for church belongings it appears the thieves specifically targeted the troop's camping equipment.

"They took tents, they took backpacking stoves, they took every propane bottle that we had,  some cooking utensils, a circular grate that hangs over a fire so we can do some open cooking and other stuff," said John Conklin, an adult leader with the troop.

Norton police tell Fox 8 News that an officer believes he may have recovered some of the bags from the tents at a homeless encampment in the woods behind a local Moose Lodge.

Fox 8 visited the site and found it cleaned out.

Conklin also visited another homeless encampment near the church where it appears people have just recently been asked to leave.

What was left behind looks like a list of some of the items stolen from the scouts.

The people who abandoned the site left behind dozens of propane tanks of different sizes, exactly like what was taken from the scouts, tarps and more.

Conklin could not positively identify any of what we found as belonging to the scouts,  but there was no denying that many of the items discovered in the woods are exactly what the thieves targeted during their break-in.

During Fox 8's visit to the homeless encampment, nobody was there and we found no tents.

The thefts leave the troop struggling to try to replace their tents and equipment in time for a winter campout scheduled in just a few weeks.

"I feel bad for these individuals that they are sleeping outside in this kind of weather and have no shelter, but in the same respect I also got 44 Boy Scouts that I need to take on a Klondike that I don't have a shelter to put them in," said Conklin.

"That's 200 bucks a tent times six. That's a major outlay and when you take something like a Boy Scout troop that's totally funded through pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners and so forth, that's a major hit for us," said Conklin.

The troop has started a 'go fund me page' to collect contributions to replace the equipment and troop leaders say anyone wishing to help can also leave their contribution at the church.

In the meantime, Conklin says they have been left with an eye opening experience that has helped them understand a need in their own community that many here may not have realized was there.

"I have a church leadership meeting here at (The Johnson Family Life Center) this coming Saturday and one of the things that I am going to bring up is, yes the Boy Scouts are upset that we lost all this gear, but now do we have another ministry that we need to take a look at and do we also need to be looking at how we help these individuals as well," said Conklin.

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