Piecing it back together: one year after our lego theft

It’s been a year since someone broke into our home, while we were sleeping, and stole only our Lego collection. This continues to be the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced and I hope it forever will be – I don’t know if I could handle anything stranger.

Throughout the year we have heard the same questions and suggestions over and over. Chief among them was the question, “are you serious!?” soon followed by, “did you catch who did it?”

In this post I’m going to attempt to address all of those frequently asked questions and provide some closure. I may update this post down the road, I may not. This should be the last thing I post on the topic.

Did you catch who did it?

No. No we did not. I don’t anticipate that we will, either.

Why not? Because most of what the thief grabbed was bulk Lego. They can know the assembled sets (which are the only ones I shared in my announcement post) but because they didn’t grab the manuals the rest of what they captured is random pieces. It’s the equivalent of someone stealing loose screws and bolts from a hardware store – how are you going to trace that?

Bins of Lego bricks
Sorting random Lego brick

Plus, it’s just as likely that this collection was stolen for keeps rather than for sale. Unless I stumble across the home where it now lives, I won’t see it again.

I did scour the internet for awhile after the collection went missing, finding what seemed like positive matches on a few difference occasions. Eventually I stopped looking when each lead turned into a dead end. I decided my time was better spent on billable work, otherwise I was just allowing the thief to rob me twice.

It someone you know, you know?

Yeah, we know. Without question it was someone who had been in our house before. That’s the only way they would have known where to find the collection and how to get in and get it. That doesn’t help narrow things down, though, and I decided early on that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being suspicious of my friends or family. So, if it was you, know that I’m not looking for you and would be happy to never learn it was you (but I would still like to know how you did it).

Did you get everything back?

Microscale Lego Firehouse
Microscale Lego Ghostbusters Firehouse

Almost! We immediately repurchased a few sets that were still available on shop.lego.com, and we bought new storage drawers from Amazon, but that was it for the first year. Several generous people sent us Lego in response to our theft and we’re still floored and humbled by your kindness. More on that in a bit.

I went back and forth several times about whether or not I even wanted to rebuy everything. To go through the entire claims process, to spend the time searching for and purchasing each of the old sets via Bricklink, to reintroduce the liability back into our home. My smart wife (and several others) convinced me it is worth the effort because our kids are already super into Lego and that interest is only going to grow with time. Plus, let’s be honest, if I just let it all go then the terrorists win.

So, I’ve spent a lot of time these past several weeks buying every set could find from our original collection. Wherever possible we purchased sealed sets from different sources – just to be extra sure we’re not paying for our stolen stuff (which would be highly unlikely anyhow, since the person(s) behind this don’t know which sets they took). We were able to find everything from our known collection except for one single set. I still can’t believe it!

Friends and strangers alike are incredibly generous

I have always known this in my core. It’s a primary driver behind most of my own motivations, too. Generosity is a muscle that must be exercised lest it atrophy.

Many of you, though, still surprised me.

Cardboard boxes of bulk Lego bricks
Boxes of gifted bulk Lego

There were several comments on my original post, as well as emails, private messages, and more from people who wanted to send us Lego in response to our story. Some of you even sent us things without even asking first, likely knowing I would have otherwise done my best to dissuade you. In one example, Meijer, the incredible supermarket where we prefer to shop, sent us a $150 gift card to buy some new sets after hearing our plight. There was no publicity attached to it and, as far as I can tell, these two sentences are the only place it has been publicly mentioned anywhere. They’re just good people.

I did my best to thank everyone privately after each instance and that hardly seems sufficient.

To all of you, again, I have to say thank you!

We continue to be humbled by your gifts and have been enjoying playing with them quite thoroughly.

Can we send you some Lego?

Thank you very much for you offer! But, no, please don’t.

I definitely wasn’t soliciting donations when I announced we had been robbed, and yet many of you just cannot help yourselves because you’re so awesome. If you are in a position where you have unused Lego, and you want to see new life breathed into it, we encourage you to seek out local foster parents or operators of after-school programs. There’s a good chance they would benefit tremendously from some new and unexpected Lego.

If you really do want to divest of the Lego, and you can’t find a worthy recipient, I would be happy to help find someone and facilitate the exchange for you. Please do reach out if that’s the case.

Did you hear about the [other] Lego theft?

We probably have, actually. I didn’t know this before our own robbery but have definitely been made aware of just how common a target Lego is for thieves. Now people will inform me about them on the regular.

Screenshots of other Lego theft articles
Lego theft news clippings

In most cases the criminals are robbing commercial institutions (e.g. Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Target, etc.). From there they might return the box with rocks inside, resell the stolen goods ( via Craigslist, ebay, Facebook, etc.), or just keep things for their own enjoyment.

I heard about at least one local-to-me case where a significant amount of Lego had been stolen from a warehouse (easily 4-5x the volume and value of our collection). In that case it was thankfully recovered around 18 months later, when that thief was busted for an unrelated crime.

In recent news there is a rather infamous case of a long-term Lego theft ring operated in Oregon – police busted a man with over $50k of stolen Lego still in his home. And there are many, many, many other cases besides these. It seriously happens all the time. Private Lego theft is far less publicized, so it’s hard to really know how common it is, but it would seem it’s not much of an outlier.

How are you sleeping since the incident?

Better, now that it’s a year behind us. But still not great.

Katie and I both had a lot of trouble falling asleep and staying asleep in the first month following the robbery. It got easier after we added security cameras and a monitoring system for all our entry points. We now have a few thousand dollars wrapped up in these stupid security encumbrances and I hate that.

I do still routinely wake up after a bump in the night, get a hit of adrenaline, and then have trouble going back to sleep after that. There are occasionally (rarely) nights where I’ll sleep very little. It was an extremely personal and violating crime and I’m afraid that will always be with me. But it is such a minor thing, too, compared to what so many other people live through and what it could have been. I remind myself of that on the regular to keep perspective.

What’s next?

Not much, as far as this case is concerned. We’ll continue acquiring the sets from our original collection, occasionally buy new sets, and keep enjoying Lego as a family.

Custom Lego Brickheadz models
My wife and I as Lego Brickheadz

The thief may have taken our things, may have taken my time, and may have cost us a lot of money, but they will not rob us of the joy of play as a family.

If you, thief, are reading this, I still – more than anything – want to know how you did it. Feel free to drop us an anonymous letter and give us some closure. I’ll do my part and continue praying you eventually find your footing towards a better, meaningful life. And sorry for calling you a dick to anyone who will listen.

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