11/07/2012 11:46 EST | Updated 01/07/2013 05:12 EST

Legion still plagued by poppy can thefts

Theft of tins that raise money for veterans continues to be a problem in the St. John's area, although poppy can robberies have declined since last year.

Six poppy cans have been reported stolen so far this year, down considerably from last year, when more than 40 tins went missing. Police charged at least three people who stole cans for the money in 2011.

Todd Martin, who manages the Royal Canadian Legion branch on Blackmarsh Road, said steps were taken this year to warn retailers, restaurants and others who participate in the annual fundraising drive.

"We wrote a memo to everybody, every store, every place that has poppy tins out and basically gave them some little helpful tips," Martin told CBC News.

Among others, retailers were told to keep the tin behind the counter during slow hours. [Read the text of that memo here.]

Last year, police said thieves often took advantage of busy staff to steal cans. For instance, security video recorded at a Tim Hortons coffee shopped show two men in action. While one leaned forward after an employee turned around, the other quickly swiped the can under a jacket.

Craig Power, president of the Legion branch in Pleasantville, said the thefts continue to appal members and their supporters.

"It's disgusting that they would take revenues that are used for the sole purpose of people that have put their lives in harm's way," Power said.

The poppy drive — in which people make a donation for a poppy to wear before Remembrance Day — is the key fundraiser for the Legion.

"Every penny that's put in the poppy cans across the country goes towards helping veterans," said Martin.

Donations are directed to such expenses as housing or purchase of wheelchairs for veterans who cannot afford them.