Edmonton police are warning stores, restaurants and other businesses to be wary of poppy fund thieves following the first such theft reported this year.

poppy fund theft

Police are asking for the public's help in identifying this man in the theft of a poppy fund container from a 7-11 in north Edmonton. (Edmonton Police Service)

In surveillance video taken Oct. 27 at 4:44 p.m. at the 7-11 at the corner of 118th Avenue and 50th Street, a man in a black jacket stands at the front counter. He buys a scratch-and-win ticket, scratches the ticket as the clerk walks away. Once the clerk is out of sight, he looks up and spies the white donation box.

He walks over, checks the box's weight, opens his jacket, stuffs the box in and quickly walks out.

"I think it just presented itself to this individual and he ran with it. And that money sitting there is no different than having someone leaving cash behind. So, I think it was a crime of opportunity." Const. Ted Dyck told media Friday.

Dyck said it's not known how much money was in the donation container.

According to the Royal Canadian Legion, $450,000 was raised in the Edmonton area in 2012, the same year police recorded 14 poppy fund thefts in the city.

Bill Fecteau, chairman of the Kingsway Legion Branch #175, said the money is mostly used to support veterans with living expenses, including rent and electric scooters. This year, donations have also been used to support rebuilding following the summer floods in southern Alberta.

Fecteau offered a message to the man who stole the donation box: "Before you decide to steal a poppy box, think twice.  Think of where the money is going; think of how you're robbing the veterans and the community at large for whatever small amount you may get from the poppy boxes."

Security up to each location

Fecteau said there are approximately 3,500 poppy donation cans across the city, and Legion volunteers empty them as frequently as every two days. He said it is up to each organization and business to figure out security procedures.

Legion calls out thieves of poppy funds

The Royal Canadian Legion's Bill Fecteau asks would-be poppy fund thieves to think of how much veterans raised for charity in 2012 - $450,000. (Niall McKenna/CBC News)

"We can just offer the suggestion to tie [the boxes] down."

The suspect is described as between 25 and 30 years old, 6’ tall, and weighing 220 lbs. He was wearing sunglasses resting on a black baseball cap, black T-shirt, blue jeans, and a distinctive varsity-style jacket with black body and white sleeves.

In 2011, James Trevor Hollar, 28, pleaded guilty to four counts of theft under $5,000 after a string of poppy fund thefts from convenience stores and gas stations the previous year in north Edmonton. Hollar was sentenced to 15 months in jail.