Brazen Thieves Stealing From Pews As Worshippers Go To Receive Communion

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Petty crimes seem to be on the rise in normally sacred places — churches in the Bronx.

Thieves are robbing from the faithful, CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock reported Thursday.

People seek the sanctity of the Immaculate Conception Church in Melrose for many reasons. Prayer may top the list, but lately, some are coming to the church and others in the Bronx to prey upon unsuspecting parishioners.

“When people come to church they feel very safe. The same people who would protect their bag at the department story feel they feel they can leave in on the bench at church. Unfortunately, there’s a very small percentage of people who would take advantage of that,” Father Francis Skelly said.

And some have, stealing from the pews while church goers accept communion. Father Skelly said more notable though are the car break-ins.

“That’s happened about five times,” he said.

Now, the NYPD patrols the area during Sunday mass.

In University Heights at St. Nicholas of Tolentine, Father Joseph Girone said he has to deal with similar problems.

“Since fall I’ve noticed petty types of crimes,” Father Girone said. “Sacristy door was left open. Someone went in and stole the portable microphone, but it’s no good to them.”

It belongs in what most believe is sacred ground. For thieves, though, this sanctuary offers opportunity. Father Girone explained how one crook stole money from the votive jar.

“He pretends he prays and after a while, ‘chinga, chinga, chinga,’ you hear the coat hanger going up and down,” he said.

The thief was caught in the act and is now being prosecuted.

Construction on a fence was just completed. It became necessary because people were urinating and defecating on the church façade.

“We want to be open. The last thing we want to do is make it look like a fortified castle,” Father Girone said.

Unfortunately, recent events make fortifying this church and others in the Bronx necessary.

Father Girone told CBS 2’s Murdock that the money stolen or spent protecting the church would normally go toward funding services like youth programs.

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