Stolen York City church handbells recovered

Nine stolen handbells were returned to a York City church in two memorable ways.

Otterbein United Methodist Church Pastor Jason Schwartzman said a music shop owner called him one day to say he had five of the stolen bells. The other four were returned after a police department outside of the city confiscated them at a traffic stop.

Schwartzman said the good news started coming in after the local newspaper ran an article on the thefts then, he said, the community rallied around. 

There were a few people involved in he crime but an army involved in the solution, he said. 

“I am surprised about the fact that we got them back,” he said. But, “I'm not surprised at the fact that when you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, they generally do it.”

The music shop owner had had five of the bells in his store for a couple of months and was excited when they sold. 

“He had gone home the night before and said to his wife, 'I finally got rid of those church bells!' and she slid the newspaper across to him and said, 'You need to see this,” Schwartzman said. “Those were our church bells.”

The music shop owner had already sold the bells on eBay but had not shipped them yet and was able to cancel the owner. 

The other four bells came back after a call from another area church. A nearby police department had confiscated the bells during a traffic stop and then called local churches to see if they were missing any.

But they didn't find the owners.

That was, until after that newspaper article ran and one of the churches the police had called took notice. 

The police departments then worked together to get the bells back to Otterbein United Methodist Church.

Schwartzman announced the return of the handbells to his church during a sermon. He said the audience broke out in an applause, something he joked doesn't happen very often. 


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