NORTHEAST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) --Investigators say they caught a man red-handed when he tried to steal donations meant for the poor from a church in Northeast Philadelphia.
Police say 28-year-old William Sides was preying on Our Lady of Calvary Church on the 11000 block of Knights Road as cameras captured him breaking into the church and attempting to pry open the poor box.
Sides had no idea he was walking into a trap set by Officer Denny Clair and his partner, who'd been waiting for the thief police say had struck the church at least two times before.
"He was extremely surprised. He actually, 'Oh,' and attempted to run out the side door," said Philadelphia Police Officer Denny Claire.
The officers quickly tackled him to the ground.
The thefts from the poor boxes that began weeks earlier saddened parishioners.
"Of all the places to steal from, a church," said Ed Kubala, parishioner. "Because whatever they get, they give to the poor people."
"I planned on being there every night until we got him," said Claire.
After one unsuccessful night, the officers returned for a second. They were waiting in the front pew in the dark when the suspect walked through the door.
"We ducked down behind the organ. We heard the keys rattling. We observed the gentlemen walk in, and we waited until we observed him prying open the poor box and that's when we swooped in," said Claire.
The officers, both Catholics, credit divine intervention.
"It was very gratifying. In fact, after the first night, before we left, we lit a candle and we put money in the poor box and said a prayer that we would get this gentleman," said Claire.
Sadly, Sides could have avoided the situation and gotten help had he simply knocked on the Rectory door first.