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Guelph Police Service
The apology note left on the family's stoop for trespassing on their home and stealing the couple's electronics.
TODAY contributor
updated 8/7/2012 5:24:57 PM ET 2012-08-07T21:24:57

A Guelph, Ontario, couple were leaving for work on the morning of July 27 when they noticed an unusual package on their stoop: a plastic bag containing their Xbox and digital camera.  Attached to it was an apology note from the burglar who had taken the items from their home, along with $50 to pay for the damage. The couple hadn’t even known they were robbed.

The story of the remorseful robber reverberated through the small town of Guelph, which just that week had been declared the safest city in Canada for the fifth year in a row by Statistics Canada. It quickly spread elsewhere.

“Residents kind of laugh that even criminals respect our crime rate and felt guilty because it did come the same week that we were voted safest city,” Sgt. Douglas Pflug told TODAY.com. “It opened a neat social media debate.”

Often voted one of the best places to live in Canada, the university town is just an hour west of Toronto and has a population of 100,000 to 125,000 residents. A Guelph real estate agent tweeted about the recent media attention: “Proof: This community is so unique it becomes national news!”

But despite the thief’s good intentions, the police department still hopes to track him or her down.

“We’re really proud of the crime rate,” Pflug said. “When you go online people are saying this is really nice for us, but this is still an unsolved mystery case. We’re really trying to find out who’s responsible.”

What they do know is that the burglar entered the couple’s home between 6 and 7 in the evening while they were out walking the family dog. They weren’t aware that anything had been stolen until they found the note addressed to “the family I have wronged,” waiting on their stoop the next day.

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The letter reads: “I’m the one who committed the serious crimes against your family and I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

After assuring the family he hadn't rifled through any of their personal belongings, he admitted, “I have been having a very hard time financially lately and I made the worst mistake of my life.”

The penitent prowler also left $50 for the couple to repair their damaged backdoor screen, promising to “commit to at least 15 hours of community service to partially help atone for what I have done.”

But the gesture wasn’t enough to restore the couple's sense of security, even on their sleepy street.

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“They’re pretty upset by it, because at the end of the day someone still broke into their home,” Pflug said of the family, who chose to remain anonymous. “It’s going to take some time until they feel 100 percent safe.”

And just who is this sorry someone? The police say they’re still looking for the thief who wrote in his apology that “this is the first and last time I will ever commit a crime.” But Pflug said he doesn’t buy that this person is a first-time offender, judging by the thief’s self-prescribed punishment, which is remarkably similar to the punishment he or she would have received in court for stealing.

“That tells me they know the court system,” he said.

Residents quickly came up with their own theories, many supposing a teenager was probably responsible.

“Perhaps they have a very involved mother on their shoulder to nag them,” Guelph resident Sharon White told CTV News.

It wouldn’t be the first time teenagers in Guelph have expressed remorse for stealing. In 2011, would-be thieves attached an apology letter to goods they had stolen from unlocked vehicles in a “car-hopping” spree. They listed the locations of each theft and signed the note, “two stupid kids.”

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