JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It's football Saturday at St. Martin Youth Complex, where more than 400 kids, ages five and above, come to play football, cheer and have fun. The complex is one of several affected by a recent rash of concession stand burglaries in Jackson County.
The stolen materials belonged to different youth sports clubs. In the case of St. Martin Youth Complex, the St. Martin Youth Football League was the victim. Parents said the children participating in the league are the real victims.
"I was really shocked that someone would do that to kids like us," said 10-year-old Kelsi Williams, who helps her mom, Tria, in the concession stand.
League president Dwayne LeGrand said even though there had been problems with theft before, he was disgusted by the news.
"When you're stealing from kids, that's just absurd," said LaGrand.
Police said the suspects took more than $6,000 in snacks, merchandise and concession equipment from several locations county-wide. They included Ocean Spring High School's Greyhound stadium, the St. Martin High Soccer and baseball fields, the Jackson County Soccer Complex in Gautier and the public baseball fields in Vancleave.
Tria Williams keeps the books for St. Martin Youth Football. She estimated $1,000 worth of material was taken from their supplies.
"A $1,000 hit is a very big hit because of the fact that it takes the candy away from the children, and it takes the money away to pay the officials. And sitting and looking at the finances, because of the hit, right now our league is $500 in the negative."
Williams said it will be difficult for the non-profit to get that money back. After all, they depend on concession and merchandise sales, as well as outside fundraisers for cash. She said she's upset about more than a monetary value.
"I was just devastated," Williams said. "I could not believe that someone would actually come in here and take from the chidlren. Because that's exactly who they took away from. They didn't take away from the adults. They took away from our children."
These league organizers said they have their own suggestions for punishing whoever is responsible.
"I want to get a chain gang here with everyone of the guys that did it, wearing a shirt that said 'I stole candy from your kids.' I would love to have something like that," LeGrand said with a laugh.
Williams has a simpler wish.
"I just hope that the people that did do this, that eventually they'll realize what the did."Williams said.
Six people were arrested and charged Friday in connection to the burglaries. They range in age from 17 to 22. They are:
- Ronald Gerhard- 4 counts of Commercial Burglary
- Joshua Bissett- 5 counts of Commercial Burglary
- Aaron Orwig- 4 counts of Commercial Burglary
- Jeffrey Bissett- 1 count of Commercial Burglary
- John Mihalik- 5 counts of Commercial Burglary
- Nikki McNabb- 1 count of Commercial Burglary