OCEAN CITY — A group of students assembled a gnome village in front of the high school Thursday morning in an apparent prank days before graduation.
Now police are trying to reunite the 75 colorful garden ornaments with their rightful owners.
School staff found the pointy-hatted curios decorating the school’s landscaping when they arrived at work.
Police Lt. Steven Ang said the eight students involved — all captured on the school’s security cameras wearing dark hooded sweatshirts to conceal their identities — put some thought into the gnome feng shui.
“They were strategically placed in the landscaping — neatly and professionally,” he said.
Police suspect the gnomes were taken from properties across Cape May County. Ang said police could pursue charges if property owners come forward with theft complaints. But for the moment, police are treating the incident as a prank.
“We’re trying to keep it in perspective,” he said.
“It was actually very creative and in good spirit,” Principal Matthew Jamison said. “Of course, the school certainly doesn’t condone stealing private property.”
But Jamison said school officials do not know whose gnomes graced the school’s lawn and shrubbery.
“It’s unclear to me where they got them — if they were stolen off lawns or they bought them at flea markets or it was someone’s mass collection,” he said.
So far, nobody in Ocean City has reported missing a gnome. State Police also received no complaints of missing gnomes in neighboring Upper Township, Dennis Township and Woodbine on Thursday.
Police gathered the gnomes and took them to the impound yard off Tennessee Avenue, Ang said.
“Most exercised their constitutional right not to speak to police,” he quipped.