The theft of two of the Three Wise Men from a nativity scene on Long Island less than 10 days before Christmas is being investigated as a hate crime, police say.
The plastic figurines about three to four feet tall were taken from a nativity scene on NY 25A in Saint James between Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.
The nativity scene was set up by the Saint James Chamber of Commerce.
The case is being investigated by the police department’s hate crimes unit "because clearly it was a religious display," said Suffolk police Detective Sgt. James Brierton.
A menorah placed right next to the nativity scene has been damaged by vandals several times in recent years.
"It's a horrible thing for something that signifies the holiday spirit to be stolen," said neighbor Thomas Redden.
While police now consider the theft a hate crime, some in St. James see it as a childish prank.
"A hate crime? I don't think so," said Gina Amen. "I hope it wasn't anybody desperate out there to decorate their house."
If you know anything about the theft, contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.