Patriotism or prank? A pair of Barnegat 18-year-olds are accused of making off with an oversized American flag from the municipal dock on the Fourth of July.

Clayton McNabb and Adriane Cuchelo were charged Monday with fourth-degree theft following an investigation by township police Detective William Hetrick.

The iconic flag measures 190 square feet - 19 feet long by 10 feet wide.

According to Barnegat PD Lieutenant Keith Germain, headquarters was notified around 6:50 AM that day about the Star-Spangled Banner that suddenly wasn't flapping atop the pole on the pier. Hetrick found the 120-foot rope holding the flag in place severed.

Hetrick was able to pinpoint the suspects after a stream of interviews with people living in the condos around the dock. Police say he found the flag undamaged in Cuchelo's dwelling on Tara Lane. She wasn't at home at the time.

Barnegat police credit township residents with vigilance and support of community policing that allowed enough critical information to surface to resolve the theft.

McNabb and Cuchelo were released to await municipal court hearings.