Just days before the start of the holiest season in the Christian calendar, someone stole about $1,700 that a Northeast Philadelphia Catholic school had raised through its book fair, according to police.
It happened at St. Martha Church, 11320 Academy Road, on the evening of Feb. 2. Surveillance cameras positioned around the church and adjoining school recorded a woman whom police have described as “wanted for questioning” in the crime, which is being treated as a burglary because the woman in the video would not have had permission to enter the parish buildings.
A school employee told police that the unidentified suspect entered the church at around 7:50 p.m. and found her way into the basement, where the proceeds from the recent book sale were being stored. Police did not specify the amount of money involved, but the parish pastor, Rev. Al Masluk, quoted the $1,700 figure to the Daily News.
Police recovered the surveillance footage, which shows a car in the school parking lot, pulling up to a curb outside the gym entrance. A woman exited from the passenger side of the car and attempted to open a set of double doors, but they were locked. A short time later, the same car pulled up to another church entrance adjoining the parking lot. The same woman exited the vehicle and approached two sets of double doors, which were also locked.
Finally, the car pulled up to the rectory entrance. The woman exited the vehicle and jogged briskly on a walkway up to those doors, which were not locked. Video recorded inside the lobby showed the woman tip-toeing up to various doors until she found one open. A short time later, she returned to the lobby and exited through the rectory doors, returning to the waiting car.
Police have not issued an official description of the car, which appeared to be a dark-colored sedan, or the driver, who was not visible in the video. The woman was described as white, about 25 to 30 years old, with long brown hair, glasses, a blue coat, a gray shirt and black pants.
Images of the woman in question have gone viral among local Facebook users. A woman posted still photos from the surveillance video on Feb. 3, along with a short description of the crime. As of yesterday, the post had been shared almost 4,700 times and had drawn dozens of comments from those expressing disgust at the crime.
Call Northeast Detectives to report information at 215–686–3153. Anonymous tips may be reported via 215–686-TIPS or by texting to “PPD TIP.” Visit the Philadelphia Police channel on YouTube to see the video. ••