WEST ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Long Island police say they’ve arrested a man for a rash of break-ins and burglaries at a Catholic church in Suffolk County.
Authorities believe he robbed Our Lady of Lourdes in West Islip four times in the last month.
Father Brian McNamara showed TV 10/55’s Richard Rose the busted door a patrolling police officer discovered late Sunday night.
Police say just hours before, 28-year-old Michael Fredericks kicked in the door to crawl inside the room where donations collected from parishioners were stored in a metal chute.
But it was too late — Father McNamara had already collected the cash.
“They didn’t get anything because we had changed our procedure,” he said, “yet they kept breaking into the one area.”
Father McNamara’s frustration is clear. Police say it was the fourth time in just the last three weeks that the homeless man allegedly broke into the church to steal candle and collection plate donations.
Police say they were able to identify him because his image was captured on several church cameras. Father McNamara says they kept changing locks, but the collection thief often used a crowbar to pry open the metal cash container to steal between four and five hundred dollars.
Parishioners say they are relieved someone has been charged, yet saddened to hear the suspect is homeless.
Anybody that would break into a church is probably pretty desperate and needs more help than a couple of hundred dollars will provide them,” parishioner Marilyn Clemens said.
Suffolk police agree, alleging Fredericks stole to feed his heroin habit.
While thankful for an arrest, Father McNamara sees it as an opportunity for the suspect to turn his life around.
“This doesn’t have to be the end of the story,” he said. “Good Friday wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus. Easter Sunday was.”
For now, Fredericks will face four burglary counts in the third degree when he is arraigned in first district court Tuesday.
Police say Fredericks is also being investigated in connection to several home burglaries in the area.