OREM, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - After catching her shoplifting, officers decided not to shame a struggling single mom but to help her, instead.
"Breaking the law is wrong. It's a crime, and I wouldn't suggest anybody do that," said Officer Jared Goulding with the Orem Police Dept.
While Goulding says Orem Police will never condone shoplifting, responding to a recent theft incident touched his heart in a way he says he never thought possible.
"This [theft] was totally different [from most cases]. It wasn't blue tooth speakers, it wasn't things that are luxuries..." he explained. "It was food to feed her family that she couldn't afford otherwise," he said.
The mother of two did not have furniture in her humble Orem apartment, let alone any Christmas gifts for her kids.
"There wasn't any type of TV or entertainment, nothing on the walls. The only thing, as far as decoration, was a picture of a Christmas tree that it looked like the kids had kind of colored on and decorated to decorate their Christmas tree," Goulding explained, adding that he and the other responding officer paid the woman a visit after the incident.
After recognizing the severity of the shoplifter's situation, Orem Police decided to organize a department-wide sub-for-Santa project for her. Over the past couple of weeks, officers have collected money and donations amongst themselves. Even some members of the community -- like Restore Home Improvement Outlet -- has helped out with bare necessities like furniture.
It is a service project police say they will always remember, and while the store the woman stole from may still press charges, Goulding says the situation has helped him and fellow officers see people from a different perspective.
"We hope to, and we plan to really make this hopefully a wonderful Christmas for this small family who, in our opinion, truly deserves to have a little help," Goulding said.
Officers say they plan on restoring some of the secondhand furniture that was donated later this week. They say they hope to deliver it all sometime next week.
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