Look at Frosty go: Ornament thieves caught on camera

Thieves stole Elizabeth Godon's Christmas decorations from her front yard. A targeted social media campaign, combined with some unique features she'd added to the ornaments, helped get them back.

Police say take pictures, personalize items if you want them back again some day

After losing Christmas decorations to thieves, Godon has posted a warning in front of her Orléans home. (Stu Mills/CBC)

As she watched her Frosty the Snowman lawn decoration speed off over the hills of snow, it wasn't "thumpety thump thump" Elizabeth Godon heard: it was the sound of cackling young men, the clatter of plastic and the roar of a small sedan making its getaway with Frosty and his buddy, Nic the Christmas pig, crammed inside.

"Look at Frosty go," Godon thought.

Godon's home security camera captured the whole scene: on Dec. 7, three young men exit a car and run up to Godon's festively decorated yard on Sacremento Drive in Orléans. One of them heads directly for Frosty.

"He drop-kicks it, then he picks it up and runs with it," Godon said.

Remarkably, Frosty stays illuminated as the young man hustles him back to the car, but the extension cord finally reaches its limit as the thief shoves the snowman into the back seat.

Another young man bursts into the frame with Nic under his arm, then stuffs the pig in behind Frosty. And off they go.

Catch me if you can

That's when a light bulb went off for Godon. A red one. Last year, when one of Frosty's lights burned out, the only spare in the house was a scarlet bulb more suited to that other Christmas character. 

"At the time, I was like, 'You can't have this red light. It doesn't match," Godon recalled.

But like in the story, the red light guided Godon's way to her stolen decorations.

On a Saturday afternoon, she and her children spotted a Frosty with a single red light in front of a nearby house. Godon took pictures and shared them with Ottawa police.

An Ottawa police officer loads the recovered Frosty decoration into a cruiser to return it to its rightful owner. (Supplied)

Initially, Frosty's new owner claimed she'd had the ornament for years, but when police confronted her with evidence of the red bulb she gave in. 

Godon also shared pictures of Nic the pig on Facebook, and someone soon contacted her to report a sighting. Nic, too, was recovered.

"The only reason we got them back was because we had made them unique," Godon said. "We had photographs and we could prove that they were ours."

No charges have been laid.

Lights out

It's an all-too familiar story for Denny Zidek. On Nov. 29, he hung a brand new holiday light projector from a tree in his Orléans yard.

About 40 minutes later, his security cameras captured a dark figure plucking the gadget from the tree and fleeing.

"How do you make a light projector identifiable?" asked his daughter, Daniela Browning, who watched as Godon's saga played out on an Orléans Facebook group.

Her parents don't plan to file a police report about the missing projector, but she said the thefts have made her nervous.

"I've got a reindeer in my front yard that has been in the family for 30 years. It's handmade," she said.

Elizabeth Godon's customized Christmas decorations, after they were returned. (Supplied)

They'll be back again someday

Godon now keeps her decorations in her fenced backyard. Just to be safe, she's written her name inside them.

Ottawa police advise people to photograph their belongings, noting uniquely personal features, and to give police as much detail as possible when something is stolen.

"Having a photo of the item and any possible distinguishing features and/or serial numbers is crucial," police advise on their website.

They also advise people never to confront a suspected thief, including vigilante "sting" operations when the items are located for sale online.

Godon has now posted a sign in front of her house warning trespassers that their exploits will be captured on camera.