Village of Menomonee Falls — A recent string of cigarette lighter thefts that stretched from Germantown to Menomonee Falls have left area businesses void of entire lighter displays.
A man wearing a black Arctic parka walked into Menomonee Falls Gas and Liquor at N86 W16317 Appleton Ave. around 11:40 a.m. on Jan. 17 and walked out with 225 cigarette lighters.
A similar incident happened the day prior in Germantown when a man walked into Speedway at W178 N9653 Riversbend Lane at 9 a.m. and stole 50 lighters. The man was described as an older, white male wearing a similar black parka with a fur hood. He stole the entire lighter display before walking out of the store.
Germantown Police Chief Peter Hoell said the department was working together with Menomonee Falls Police because the two incidents may be related.
During the Menomonee Falls theft, the man diverted the clerk's attention by asking to buy cigarettes, and then grabbed the entire display case and ran out of the business, according to the police report. He was described as a white male wearing tan pants and a black parka with a brown-fur trimmed hood. He was last seen walking behind the store. The value of the lighters is about $268.
In total, the thief made away with 275 cigarette lighters, but police don't think they are for an insatiable smoking habit; it's probable the man will sell them to another convenience store.
"Whoever is taking these lighters is trying to turn that into cash somehow," said Menomonee Falls Assistant Police Chief Mark Waters. "I would speculate that there is unscrupulous retail markets out there where if you went into another convenience store and said, 'Hey, these lighters have a value of x, do you want to buy 80 of them for $50?' They can buy them cheaper from him as a stolen product than he could if he went to a wholesaler and bought them, and then he puts them out for sale."
Waters said there were not any leads in this case he was aware of at the time.
If you have any information about the thefts, call the Menomonee Falls or Germantown police departments.