Flag-rant thieves

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Video surveillance captured this image of the suspected vehicle involved in a Vatican flag theft.

IN AN UNORTHODOX theft last week, a man stole a papal flag from outside a Southwest Center City house just days before Pope Francis' visit to the city.

Although the theft was not of biblical proportions, police have released a video of the culprit and his cohorts in a crusade to get them identified.

"It would have been great if as soon as he touched the flag it just burnt up in his hand," Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, said of the blasphemous thief.

According to police, about 6:30 a.m. Sept. 22, the three thieves were driving around in a white SUV and circled the area of 27th Street near South three times. On the third time around, one of the thieves hopped out of the car and stole a large flag with the papal crest on it that a resident had placed outside his home in celebration of the pope's impending visit, police said.

The men sped away with the flag but the incident was caught on home-surveillance video, which police released yesterday.

When asked why video was released of such a minor crime, Stanford said it's the department's policy to push out videos on crimes both large and small.

"It may not seem important in the grand scheme of things, but it's important to you if that's your flag," Stanford said. "It could have been a dare, you don't know, but it's just one of those things where you don't know what that flag meant to the person who put it up."

Other such crimes of which police have released videos include the theft of a "scary butler" Halloween decoration from a front porch last year and the theft of a man's fake flowers from a flower box in front of his house in 2012.

Both incidents occurred in South Philadelphia.

Stanford said if the thief in the papal flag caper is caught, he will be charged with theft.

"Morally, though, this guy has a little more to worry about," Stanford said. "He certainly can't think he's going to be blessed in some type of way by stealing a papal flag."

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