HOPKINTON — To the man who left his cellphone at Rhode Island Harvesting early Saturday while siphoning gas from a machine parked outside: The Hopkinton Police Department would like to return it with a simple warning.
The unusual opportunity, which police said Tuesday was a "real deal," is intended to draw attention to police patrols, enhance the department's Facebook presence, and hopefully deter others from similar crimes, Hopkinton Police Capt. Mark Carrier said.
"Don't expect something like this very often. We certainly aren't in the business of allowing people to commit or create crime in our community," Carrier said. He noted that the case cannot move forward because the owners of the firm did not wish to pursue charges.
The department posted the offer on its Facebook page late Saturday morning. In 72 hours, the post had been shared 682 times and had received over 100 comments. Several people called it "a trap" or "bait," but the vast majority of posters praised the department for mixing humor with common sense policing.
"This is one of the best posts I have seen in a while HPD! Thank you for everything you do for Chariho community! I wouldn’t be so forgiving so shout out to R.I. Harvesting. We have some great business owners in Chariho!" wrote follower Bobbi Jo Clapprood.
According to a police report, the phone was recovered around 1:30 a.m. when an officer made a spot check at Rhode Island Harvesting, a family-run business that sells tractors, generators, snowblowers and other equipment. As the officer pulled into the lot at 15 Extension 184 in Ashaway, a man who was siphoning gas immediately popped up and ran into a nearby wooded area.
The police found the phone, but there was no evidence that the man had tried to enter the business or do anything other than steal fule. The loss was negligible, Carrier said, which is why no charges were sought.
"We are stopping there frequently lately after some bigger thefts over the past year," Carrier explained. "In one case, which is still under investigation, there was an excavator stolen valued at an estimated $50,000. That thief certainly wouldn't receive the same offer."
Carrier said the post, although somewhat humorous, does put criminals on high alert that the department is paying attention and serves to embarrass the person who did it.
Perhaps more importantly though, Carrier said, the post expands the department's reach across social media, which can be critical when disseminating information about such things as scams, or seeking help in identifying suspects in more serious crimes.
"For us, the more we can get people to our page and to like our page, the more likely they will see the important information when we need them to," he said.