Police in Kankakee, Illinois, are searching for the thief – or thieves – who swiped a plaster sculpture of Lincoln's hand from the Kankakee County Museum in December, Kankakee City Police Department Investigations Commander Jay Etzel tells PEOPLE.
"Somebody just swiped it off, stuck it in their pocket, or a book bag, or their coat or something and just walked out with it," he tells PEOPLE. "There was no censor on it … There's no video."
Museum officials reported the theft on Dec. 11, but Etzel says the hand could have been taken at least a week before then.
Authorities have their hands full in the case, but Etzel says a lack of surveillance footage and witnesses have left police without any leads.
The theft occurred during the museum's busiest month. Etzel says the thief swiped the artifact amid the crowds of people going on tours of the museum.
A police report estimated the hand is worth $5,000.
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The department posted about the theft on Facebook, urging anyone with any information to lend a hand in the investigation. In the post, authorities noted that the artifact is the creation of famed sculptor George Grey Bernard.
"We were devastated. It brought us all to the floor," Connie Licon, the museum's executive director, told the New York Times. "We're a small museum, and we just don't acquire pieces like this."
Etzel said that the culprit could face a felony theft charge for stealing the artifact.
Museum officials initially though the theft may have been a prank, the Times reports. But after nearly a month of hands-on investigation, Licon said curators have removed several other pieces from museum displays.
"Now we're paranoid," she told the Times. " And we're wondering: Is this person going to come back?"
Licon said she hopes the thief will return the treasured item.
"Just return it in a quiet way. Just put it in a bag and leave it somewhere," she said.