MIAMI In Bal Harbour, Fla., the Baby Jesus statue is back where it belongs.

And just to make sure the statue doesn't go missing again, Jesus, Mary and Joseph will be equipped with GPS tracking devices.

For six years, Dina Cellini has put up a Nativity display in Bal Harbour's Founders Circle. But earlier this month, someone took off with the statue of Jesus. Cincinnati resident Jeffrey Harris read a story about the crime online.

"I felt bad. How could someone steal a baby Jesus?" said Harris, who celebrates Hanukkah, not Christmas.

"Even though I am Jewish, I like the Christmas spirit," said Harris, a civil attorney. So he offered to replace the figurine.

"He's a wonderful human being," Cellini said. "It's so fitting that this negative act ended generously."

But now, Cellini is taking no more chances. In perhaps the ultimate merger of old and new, she plans to add GPS tracking devices to the statues.

Cellini, using residents' contributions and her own money, bought the Italian-made, resin baby Jesus statue from Moroneys' Religious Art store in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.. It was part of a larger stable scene that is lit up at night, next to a Christmas tree and a menorah.

"I felt there needed to be a religious presence," said Cellini, who has lived in Bal Harbour for 21 years. "Christmas gets lost because of the commercialism."

But just three days after she put up the decorations this year, someone stole the statue which had been bolted to the display platform. Other parts of the scene were left undisturbed.

She went on the WMXJ radio morning show to plead for Jesus' return. A $500 reward was offered. Bal Harbour police urged the culprit to return the figurine.

But the thief wasn't ready to seek forgiveness.

Then along came Harris.

Neither Cellini nor Harris would say how much he paid, adding it was the gesture that counted, not the amount.

The new baby Jesus arrived Tuesday.

Cellini installed it in the nativity scene and, to make sure things stay put, installed a four-foot high plexiglass screen in front of the entire display that's impossible to reach across.

The GPS tracking device will be extra insurance.

"I don't anticipate this will ever happen again," said Cellini, "but we may need to rely on technology to save our savior."

Out-of-town benefactor, GPS ensure safety of the Holy Family

By Rodolfo R. Roman | McClatchy-Tribune
5:37 AM CST, December 22, 2007