Gnome on the roam

Police Officer Bill Russell listens as Robin Burnett describes her latest loss at the hands of gnome thieves who are targeting her home. - Jim Larsen
Police Officer Bill Russell listens as Robin Burnett describes her latest loss at the hands of gnome thieves who are targeting her home.
— image credit: Jim Larsen

Robin Burnett’s Oak Harbor residence is home sweet home for a collection of gnomes, but the trouble is they’re disappearing.

The Burnetts suffered their second theft of gnomes Monday night when three of the brightly painted concrete creatures were swiped. Two weeks ago a single gnome was stolen.

Tuesday’s theft so angered Burnett that she called both the police and the newspaper, hoping for help in solving the gnome caper. In doing so, she risked exposing herself to bad puns.

Officer Bill Russell, a 21-year veteran of the force, thought for a second when asked if this was his first stolen gnome incident.

“I don’t gnome . . but I’d have to say yes,” he responded.

The possibilities were endless. The culprit could have been a baseball player stealing gnome, or someone whose favorite movie is Gnome Alone. Perhaps the pudgy statuettes remind the thief of gnome. But enough of these puns. Burnett was in no mood for light hearted banter — she just wanted to gnome who did it.

A gnome is defined in Webster’s as an “ageless and often deformed dwarf of folklore who lives in the earth and usually guards precious ores or treasure.” The bearded statues dominate the small front yard of Robin Burnett and her husband Travis, a Navy chief petty officer, on NE Ninth Avenue. There are gnomes sitting on top of rocks, one gnome swinging from a wishing well and a whole garden of gnomes in front of the house. Burnett’s gnome collection stood at 39 and counting before the thief started coming around, reducing the gnome population to 35 as of Tuesday morning.

“Everybody told me what a great, safe community this is,” Burnett said. She and Travis moved here from Florida last fall. “I put a lot of money into these gnomes. Now I’m going up and down the street looking for gnomes. It’s not right.” She was even miffed at the thief’s taste in gnomes. “That one lights up,” she said, pointing to a gnome on a log. “You’d think if anything they’d take that one.”

Officer Russell assessed the damage, filled out a crime report, gave Burnett a number of anti-crime tips, and promised extra gnome patrols in her neighborhood. “We can do extra patrols during the night,” he assured her.

Meanwhile, neighbor Ladennia Cameron walked out of her house, saw the policeman, and exclaimed, “Did someone steal another gnome? Man, I didn’t see anything last night. They got the big one? That was a honkin’ one.”

The big one was three feet high and quite heavy, prompting Officer Russell to surmise that they were dealing with an adult gnome thief. Kids would likely have smashed or discarded them nearby.

Burnett was thankful for Officer Russell’s prompt and thorough attention to the crime. “He was really good,” she said. “I just want my gnomes home.”

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