Church theft goes viral, to pastor’s dismay

An unidentified person was recorded stealing money from a donation box at St. Benedict Church in Throggs Neck last month.
Community News Group/Arthur Cusano

Video of an unidentified woman stealing money from a Throggs Neck church last month has gone viral.

The theft occurred at St. Benedict Church at 4:23 p.m. on Thursday, January 12.

The woman was captured on surveillance video footage walking up to the locked donation box containing the votive candle money and prying it open to steal its contents before calmly leaving the church.

At one point in the video, the woman appears to look directly at the security camera, but that moment of reflection ends quickly as she continues with the theft.

The suspect is a white female, approximately 30 to 35 years old.

She is seen wearing a dark-colored hooded coat, blue jeans and black and white Nike sneakers.

The theft was reported to the NYPD, who asked anyone with information on the identity of the woman to contact them.

It was soon picked up by numerous media outlets across the tri-state area and posted on social media sites.

Father Stephen Norton said he never anticipated the theft would grab as much attention from the media as it did.

“Had I known that would happen I never would have given it to them to begin with, because it’s not my job to hurt this person,” he said. “My hope is that anybody who needs assistance would come to the rectory door and ask for help.”

Thefts from the candle collection box have occurred before, Norton said, since the amount of money collected has sometimes been noticeably lower than the candles lit.

He said he did not believe the woman got away with a large sum.

The donations all go towards the upkeep of the candle setup.

Norton said the church opens early in the morning and remains available until the rectory closes, often around 6 p.m.

Church staff did not see the woman carry out the act as they went about their daily tasks, he said.

“It’s a problem because of the location in that area of the church where the statues are,” he said. “It’s kind of tucked away and hidden. When we were able to do so, we put security cameras in the building.”

Norton said he did not recognize the woman in the video, nor was he actively looking to find her – he simply wanted to protect the church and its assets that are used by the parish.

While St. Benedic’s does not distribute cash to those in need, Norton said there are other ways the church can help, such as through Catholic Charities of New York, local food pantries, or gift cards to local grocery stores donated to the church.

“To the best of my ability I try to make sure people are spending the money properly, which is why I can’t give out $10 at the door or we’d have a line out there,” he said. “And what would they use it for?”

A full listing of assistance programs can be obtained at the church, and many are listed in the church’s printed bulletins.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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