In the process of conducting pre-season inventory on July 24, Pickerington Youth Athletic Association officials discovered 100 new football helmets and 80 new sets of shoulder pads were missing from its facility on Hill Road.
With no signs of forced entry at the PYAA storage "barn" where the football equipment is kept, the organization is stumped as to the perpetrators of the theft.
"We've never had a theft at this level," said Beth Andrews, PYAA commissioner, adding that football equipment has been stored on-site without incident "for over 40 years."
Pickerington Police Patrol Commander Greg Annis said the equipment went missing between the end of November, which marked the close of last year's football season, and July 24.
"We don't have enough information to even speculate at this point. There is not a lot to go on right now," Annis said.
Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray, who also volunteers with the PYAA football program, said he was shocked to find the equipment missing.
"We bought all new equipment and we advertised it heavily as a plus for the league. A lot of people knew that," Gray said.
PYAA was targeted last March when more than $4,000 in T-ball equipment was stolen from the same complex.
"Who knows if it's the same group or a different group, there is no way to know," said Gray. "It's unfortunate because this is an all-volunteer (organization)."
Andrews acknowledged that security will need to be tightened at the PYAA complex but she defended the organization's methods up to this point.
"We've got a lot of feedback, both good and bad. People asked why we don't lock up our stuff. It was locked up. We've just got to do something different going forward," Andrews said.
She estimated the combined loss from both thefts to be in the $14,000 range.
"It takes a lot to recover that loss," Andrews said. "We're blessed that we are wise stewards of our finances so we're able to replace all of the equipment without passing the costs on to the parents."
She said PYAA is already in the process of implementing more restrictive security standards in terms of limiting access.
"When we are locking the gates in the back (of the complex), this is the reason. We have to start thinking about ways to secure our property," Andrews said.
As for the stolen football equipment, Andrews said all area Play It Again Sports stores in central Ohio have been advised to be on the lookout for the items.
Andrews thanked both the Pickerington Police Department and community members for their assistance in the case.
"We have received some good suggestions from the community," she said.
The stolen equipment was manufactured by Schutt Sports. The shoulder pads are identified as black "Y-Flex 2.0" and the helmets are all white.
Andrews said anyone with information about the stolen equipment can contact PYAA at 614-920-9635 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can also contact the Pickerington police at 614-575-6911.