NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD is looking for a man wanted for stealing from an Upper East Side church.

Candlestick holders, worth thousands of dollars, were stolen. The brazen heist was caught on camera, CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported Thursday.

“It’s a sacrilegious thing to do, to go into a sacred place and steal something,” one man said.

So you would think. But the man captured on video appears to have no problem walking right into the Church of St. Monica on East 79th Street and grabbing antique brass candlestick holders and claiming them as his.

He disturbed the peace in a place where people search for serenity.

“They have their doors open for everyone and people go in and out of there all day long for masses and just sometimes just to say a quiet prayer,” neighbor Erin Dere said.

The man seen in this image is wanted for stealing $3,000 worth of antique candlestick holders from an Upper East Side church. (Photo: Church of St. Monica)

When Dere saw the surveillance video, her face said it all — disbelief.

“It looks like something he would do all the time. It doesn’t look like he’s rushing. It looks very deliberate, kind of like he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Just helping himself to something that’s sacred to a big community,” Dere said.

The incident happened on Jan. 30, between two masses, at around 9:30 a.m.

Police said the man stole four candlestick holders, worth about $3,000.

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The following day, the priest noticed they were missing and told Guillermo Vanegas, the parish plant manager, who immediately checked surveillance.

“I got very upset. I was like what is this guy doing?” Vanegas said. “A lot of stuff comes through your head and then you’re powerless. I couldn’t do anything.”

CBS2’s DeAngelis has learned the suspect walked right into the altar area, a place only priests and church staff are allowed, and then took the candlestick holders right off of the ledge.

“There was a few people in there,” Vanegas said. “Mostly it’s old people, so I guess nobody wants to get in trouble and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?'”

The man took advantage of a place that has its doors open every weekday from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. for for parishioners, the homeless or anyone passing by.

“Because of what he did, things might change here,” Vanegas added. “We’ll see what happens down the road.”

For now, the focus is on finding the suspect, who was last seen pulling what appears to be a heavy blue suitcase down the steps of St. Monica’s, taking away a piece of the 140-year-old church and its security.

Police said they’re searching for a Hispanic man, 40 to 50 years old, last seen wearing all dark clothing, including a fur-lined coat.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) for Spanish. You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website, by Tweeting @NYPDTips or by texting a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.


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