Currents News Staff
After being robbed twice in four months, St. Helen’s Church in Howard Beach, Queens was broken into a third time on July 14 following the church’s two o’clock Baptisms.
Surveillance footage of the incident shows that at around 2:55pm, a man used brute force to break down the door to the church’s sacristy.
Father Francis Colamaria, St. Helen’s pastor, suspects the man is a “drug addict looking for money.”
“Sacristies in churches are the main hub,” he explained. “This is where precious items are kept [such as] money that is collected and put in a safe.”
Prior to the most recent break-in, the church used a Dutch door that had five locks including an electronic lock. They also had alarms set in place and security cameras.
“Now I’m going to have to fully alarm the church,” said Father Francis. “It’s gonna be Fort Knox.”
According to Father Francis, at the time of the robbery the church was empty and the doors had been left open.
“He waited for everyone to vacate. He checked the poor boxes, which were empty, and broke through the door and discovered that everything else was locked.”
Father Francis is concerned that the church isn’t the robber’s last stop.
He cited these robberies to a “rampant drug problem” that he believes will cause parishioners to look at the church as a “soft target.”
But, he doesn’t think it will turn parishioners away.
“What’s the next soft target,” he asked, “the old lady walking down the street with a purse?”
“If [this individual does] one soft target, this individual will probably do another soft target.”
There was a time when St. Helen’s was able to leave its doors open for visitors to light a candle and to just sit and pray, but now the church is empty.
“The church is dark and it’s never dark,” said Father Francis. “This church would always have people in it at this time of day.”
He now has to lock his church’s doors to try to keep people from breaking in, but at the same time, lock out those who just want to pray or light a candle.
“I gotta keep locking my church now,” said Father Francis. “Who wants to lock churches? I don’t.”
“Outraged” by the robbery attempt, Father Francis also said that the robber should “absolutely” be punished.
“We received more than 22,000 hits on our Facebook page. People are interested in stories like this because they are outraged.”
Father Francis will try to do what he can to protect the church, but believes he can only do so much and can’t prevent a break-in.
The robber destroyed the five locks on the door to the sacristy and a cross from Jerusalem that was resting on the cabinet door to the safe.