NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police on Friday were trying to find a man who they said broke into two Islamic centers in Queens and got away with thousands of dollars.
As CBS2’s Jessica Borg reported, members were praying Friday at the Islamic Center of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Crescent Street in Long Island City, Queens. Members said they had open hearts – and also curiosity – about who stole donations from their house of worship Wednesday night.
The man got into the center through a rear door, police said. Surveillance video showed him covered from head to toe, wearing gloves and a mask hiding his face.
“I was in disbelief,” said Senad Ahmedovic of the center.
Ahmedovic said that on Thursday morning, he discovered the destroyed donation box that the thief pried open and took $500 out of. Ahmedovic said he also saw that the suspect — using a crowbar — also broke into the Imam’s office and stole about $1,000 in cash from a desk drawer.
“Those donations are, you know, meant for a good cause and they’re used for a good cause,” Ahmedovic said.
Detectives think the same suspect is behind the break-in last Friday at the Islamic Unity and Cultural Center — also in Long Island City.
He stole about $7,000 in money raised for funerals there.
There are surveillance cameras at the Islamic Unity and Cultural Center. But they were not recording at the time of the burglary.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” said Smajlje Serdanoic, president of the Bosnian Muslim Organization of New York.
Serdanoic said it is possible that the suspect staked out both centers or worshipped at one before, because he seemed to know exactly what he was doing and when the centers would be closed.
The side door where he got in last Friday around 9 p.m. seemed to have no signs of forced entry.
“We don’t have a security system that screens people’s heart. So it may be somebody who acts as a Muslim; somebody who’s not even a Muslim — we don’t know,” Serdanoic said.
Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.