PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's being called a heartless crime. Thieves broke into a school in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and caused thousands of dollars in damage.
It happened earlier this week at the Visitation BVM Catholic School on the 300 block of East Lehigh Avenue.
The criminal was caught on surveillance video.
It was clear he was looking for copper and metal piping and he was seen literally snatching it off the walls.
Principal Ed Coleman showed us some of the damage. He believes crooks targeted the school Monday night into early Tuesday morning.
"They pulled a U-Haul truck on Potter Street and they backed up to the back of the school, and they pried open onto the grates for the windows," said Coleman.
Only one thief was captured on camera but the school believes others were involved, and say the crooks got away with more than just piping.
"They took two laptops from the teachers, they took snacks from the kindergarten classroom. They took that with them which was very odd," said Coleman.
The thieves ripped out piping causing the basement to flood, destroyed the plumbing and caused the heating system to malfunction.
"We all shook our heads. We had no clue. At one point, and I mentioned this to someone else, you could see on camera that one of the thieves was looking at the artwork that the kids have on the outside. So you know where you are. How do you actually have the heart to do it?" said Coleman.
All the damage caused the school to close for several days. It's safe to say principal Coleman and his staff are praying for an arrest.
"I am hopeful they can track the people down so another school, another institution, another place, another daycare, they don't have to go through this," said Coleman.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia released this statement:
"On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, Visitation BVM School was closed because school administrators discovered flooding which was believed to be caused by winter temperatures or wear and tear.
After a detailed inspection, school administrators learned that a section of piping was missing which caused the flooding to occur. This information was alarming and caused them to check other areas where piping is located. During the search it became evident that an alleged robbery had taking place in middle of the night from Monday to Tuesday.
It is believed that someone entered the basement of the school and stole several pipes. The removal of these pipes is what caused the water damage. This incident was immediately reported to the police department. We are grateful for their swift response.
Surveillance footage has been very helpful and will hopefully help the police identify the individual responsible.
School administrators communicated the alleged thief to all school families. The safety and security of their sons and daughters is our top priority. We are very saddened that someone would break into and cause damage to a Catholic school, but we are blessed because of the community and know that with God's guidance we will find our way through this situation.
The school is working with various local companies to repair the damages and to add new rod iron to various areas of the school's exterior. Once the heater is functional again, students will be able to return to school.
Those who want to donate to the school can visit this site at givebutter.com