Thieves seeking copper to sell as scrap may have stolen an 8-foot statue of Jesus Christ off a crucifix in Detroit. Problem is, it's made of plaster.

The Rev. Barry Randolph said Wednesday that the statue at the Church of the Messiah is a green color and looks like copper, one of several metals coveted by thieves because of soaring scrap prices.

Thieves have damaged copper pipes and stolen aluminum gutters at the church over the past few months as the congregation has dwindled from about 350 members to just 50, congregation member Donya Ray-Gregg said.

It's unclear when the statue was snatched. A parishioner noticed it missing Monday from its perch on the side of the church, 10 feet above the ground. A small piece of plaster was found nearby.

The church has made a public plea for help.

"It is so crazy," Randolph said. "It's been there for so long and was a symbol of hope to a lot of people in this neighborhood."

Police were investigating, but department spokesman James Tate said it was doubtful thieves had mistaken the plaster statue for copper.

"People who steal copper know what copper is and what it feels like," Tate said. "There is no way they would think a plaster statue is some type of metal."