BOSTON (CBS) — Boston police have identified a suspect in a rash of break-ins at two churches in Boston’s North End, and are now trying to see if there’s a connection with robberies at other churches in the city.

An arrest warrant has been issued for 44-year-old Richard Shiner of Boston who’s allegedly been breaking into church donation boxes using a clever technique.

Parishioners at St. Leonard’s and at Sacred Heart say he attaches gum to the end of a straw and pulls up dollars, or retrieves dollars that get stuck to the gum he places on the boxes.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports.  

“These people are criminals. They know how to break into anything, nothing stops them,” said Fr. Claude Scrima of St. Leonard’s.

The churches have been dealing with the petty thief for at least two years, and now police have put a face behind the crime, thanks to surveillance cameras the churches had to install at a cost of about $20,000.

Shiner allegedly struck again Sunday night by climbing up a fire escape and breaking through a window.

“We actually saw him running down the alley here, he climbed over the fence,” said Fr. Scrima. “There was no way we could catch him, he was so fast we couldn’t even reach him.”

He’s also accused of breaking into the boxes as well with a crowbar or hatchet, striking day and night, according to parishioner Richard Molinari who’s seen Shiner several times.

“One time I did catch him kneeling down on a box, turning it around. Someone finally came into the church and he jumped up and sat down.”

Boston police are looking into any connection with break-ins at the First Lutheran Church, St. Clement’s Shrine and Mission Church which also has surveillance of a thief in action.

In the North End, the robberies have forced the churches to close earlier each day, and some parishioners are even staying away.

“People don’t get it. Everybody is suffering because of this,” said Fr. Scrima.


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