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Thefts from churches a growing problem in Brussels

09:47 12/01/2024

Theft from parishioner collections in Brussels churches is a growing problem, according to police and church staff.

Saint-Gilles church has fallen victim to theft a number of times, with thieves often using techniques involving hooks and magnets to recover coins and notes from the boxes where visitors leave donations.

“We had a secure box but we saw that it had been ripped out of the ground,” Thierry Claessens, who is in charge of the church's furniture, told RTBF.

Claessens added in disbelief that while the church had since purchased a new one, the stolen one was made of concrete.

Several churches in Brussels have reported the theft of donations, which are generally used to maintain the building or for the parish's social work to combat poverty.

Churches in the Belgian capital also have to deal with more petty theft on a daily basis, particularly of candles.

Just last week, a police patrol arrested a man suspected of stealing money from the donation boxes of two churches in the centre of Brussels.

The perpetrator was first seen in a church on Rue du Marché aux Herbes, using adhesive tape to remove money from boxes near the church's candles. He then fled with the contents of the boxes.

Less than three quarters of an hour later, a patrol was called to the Cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula for a similar attempted theft. The same suspect was apprehended and fled again, but this time, a witness who had followed him was able to give the exact location of the individual.

The suspect was apprehended and was in possession of €50 worth of notes, which were seized.

The man is already known for a long list of offences and was on conditional release. He was released again on the decision of the deputy public prosecutor and will be questioned at a later date.

Written by Helen Lyons