SAINT JAMES, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Suffolk County Hate Crimes Unit is trying to figure out who stole two plastic wise men from an outdoor nativity scene in Saint James.

The nearly 4-foot figures were taken from a display at Route 25A and Lake Avenue sometime between Dec. 16 and Dec. 17, police said.

The case is being investigated as a hate crime because “the manger is a religious symbol put out during the Christmas season,” Suffolk Police Sgt. James Brierton told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall on Friday.

“As we investigate further and determine the motivation of the person responsible for the theft we will determine if it is kept as a hate crime,” Brierton told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Residents in the area were stunned to learn of the thievery, McLogan reported.

“I cant imagine anyone who would do that and why they would do that — it’s been up for years and years,” homeowner Tia Benish said.

The Saint James Chamber of Commerce has been displaying the nativity scene for 25 years.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

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