EAST ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Suffolk County Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the apparent theft of a baby Jesus statue from an East Islip church.

An unknown person stole the statue from a nativity scene in front of St. Mary’s Church located at 118 West Main St, according to police.

Authorities think the theft occurred sometime between 1:15 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. Monday.

“The only thing I am hoping is maybe they will give it back by New Year’s,” parishioner Lorraine Ryan told CBS2’s Sophia Hall. “Maybe their conscience will bother them and they will give it back.”

“Breaks my heat because the baby Jesus is what brings peace,” another woman said. “And it breaks my heart that somebody would do that.”

This is not the first time the baby Jesus statue was stolen from the church. The same crime happened a few years ago, but it was eventually returned, Hall reported.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the Hate Crimes Unit at 631-852-6181 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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