Man caught on camera stealing Salvation Army red kettle at Walmart in Gladstone

GLADSTONE, Mo. -- Police are searching for a couple they say spotted an open window and took the opportunity to steal a Salvation Army red kettle.

The money that gets dropped into red kettles each Christmas is critical to the work the Salvation Army does around Kansas City.

"All these kettles stay right here in KC and equip us to be able to help people in winter time pay their utilities, assist people at Christmas with presents, food, staying in their homes so they're not homeless or even helping if they are homeless," said Major David Harvey with the Salvation Army.

So it's tough to watch surveillance images that show a Christmas Grinch pull up to the Gladstone Walmart, adjust belongings in the back of his van, then jam a red kettle -- bucket, stand and all -- in the back as the ringer took a quick second behind the glass doors to get warm.

The driver's female passenger was caught on camera watching the whole thing happen. Once the bell ringer saw what was happening, he tried to chase the van down, but it got away.

"The money will be replaced," Harvey said. "God will take care of us. So again it's unfortunate this was taken, but we're glad the bucket and stand is back. But pray this income is recovered so we can serve the people of this great city."

Sadly this year, fewer nickels, dimes and dollars are finding their way into the famous buckets. Donations are down 15 percent, making a theft like the one Tuesday all the more painful.

"If people do have need and they're that desperate -- just find your local Salvation Army," Harvey said. "We're here to help. We'll assist anybody that we can in this city, and there's other agencies we work with. We can find answers to those needs so they don't need to do this kind of thing that's going to end up hurting them in the long run."

The white Dodge Caravan used in the crime had no front or rear license plates, but it does have distinct white tape down both back windows.