Suffolk Church Burglary Arrest Shines Spotlight On Addiction Treatment

WEST ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There are thoughts of hope and healing at a Long Island parish Tuesday as a heroin addict, accused of robbing Our Lady of Lourdes in Suffolk County four times, had his day in court.

For Monsignor Brian McNamara, it’s a time of reflection as children learn the meaning of Easter and parishioners attend Masses for Holy Week.

“Many people who have spoken to me feel bad about the guy, that he had to stoop to this,” Msgr. McNamara tells CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan. “We certainly are praying for him.”

McNamara is referring to Michael Fredericks — the suspect in multiple burglaries at the Catholic church who was caught on surveillance tape, police say.

Fredericks has been charged with four counts of third degree burglary in connection to the crimes.

Prosecutors say Fredericks confessed to the break-ins, seeking cash for heroin and in the process stealing hundreds of dollars intended for the poor. Authorities say he was non-violent and not confrontational.

But it’s a thin line to cross into violence. Police point to addict David Laffer, who killed four people inside a Medford Pharmacy, and Christopher Dimeo, who robbed and killed three jewelers to feed a heroin habit.

CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports over 1,000 calls per month from desperate addicts and their families are pouring into the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Social worker Reisa Berg says there’s an intense cycle of guilt and shame associated with addiction.

Leaders in Long Island saw 500 overdose deaths last year, with another 800 lives saved by Narcan.

Yet this is their tree of hope.

“To help people, whether it’s a priest reaching out to a parishioner or someone we see on the street,” LICADD Executive Director Steven Chassman said. “We have outreach teams that go out and we approach people. We don’t tell them to get off drugs — we offer them basic human needs first; detox, inpatient, outpatient, food, shelter, clothing.”

Then, he says, they integrate healthy coping skills — which means aiding the church suspect.

“This doesn’t have to be the end of the story for him,” Msgr. McNamara said. “He has redemption around the corner for him. He just has to reach out and grab that redemption. That’s really what Holy Week is about.”

Once the alleged church burglar is able to make bail, and before the trial begins, a family friend tells CBS2 their number one goal is to get him help for his heroin habit.

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