Thieves caught on tape stealing collection box from West Bloomfield church

Thieves broke in and stole a safe from a West Bloomfield church.

Now police are going after the three suspects who were caught on security tape at St. Thomas Chaldean Catholic Church at 4 a.m. Monday morning.

The crime happened in the grotto, located behind the church which is open 24 hours a day for anyone to have a quiet place to worship and leave a donation.

Those donations were recently stolen by three men and the crime was caught on camera.

"You don't expect it to happen in these places, churches, but it does," said Rafed Yaldo. 

Pictures of the three men were captured by security cameras at the grotto at St. Thomas. Police say it was a crime of opportunity.

"They approached the donation collection box," said Det. Eric Hamilton of the West Bloomfield police. "They tried to fish out some of the funds with a snow plow marker."

The attempt with the snow plow flag often used to mark a driveway didn't work. Police say they came back with tools.

"They damaged the door leading to the room behind the collection box," Hamilton said. "They pried it open. They got access to the collection box, that's how they got the funds."

Church members say the timing of the crime is no coincidence, it happened around the holy week of Easter when parishioners say they usually see an increase in donations.

The money stolen was supposed to go overseas to families in Iraq.

"A lot of the donations goes back to help people who have been displaced with what is going on," Yaldo said. 

While parishioners are disgusted to learn of the most recent crime they are not surprised.

Yaldo says three years ago when he was member of the parish council at the church, someone else stole the donations back then.

"I spent a couple nights inside the church trying to catch him," Yaldo said. "It was a little bit different. He would steal through the holes of the candles where people would donate through the candle donation box."

In that case Yaldo says the criminal knew he was being watched and never came back.

He says in this case he hopes the three suspects caught on camera turn themselves in and return the money.   

Hamilton said they have received some tips but are hopeful someone recognizes the suspects from the photo.
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