Two Falls Church men have been charged with burglarizing several churches and offices across Northern Virginia.
Fairfax County police, working with Prince William County and Alexandria city police, arrested Frank Irizarry, 37, and Dustin Thomas, 22, who are linked to two dozen break-ins. Eight of the incidents occurred in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County, seven in the city of Alexandria and nine in Prince William.
The two men, charged with burglary and grand larceny, initially were being held in Fairfax and are believed to have been working as a team, police said.
Beginning in early January, several churches, first in Prince William and later in Fairfax and Alexandria, began reporting burglaries. Many of the incidents took place over the past month, and there were a number on Memorial Day weekend. After sharing information, detectives from the three jurisdictions arrested Irizarry at his home last Wednesday and Thomas the following day, Fairfax police said.
"It was very great cooperative effort among the agencies," said Amy Bertsch, spokeswoman for Alexandria police.
Items taken typically included such small electronics as laptops and cell phones, along with money. But in many of the break-ins, little or nothing was taken, police and victims said.
In Alexandria, the value of items taken was several hundred dollars, and much has been returned to victims, police said. In Fairfax, stolen goods are being held as evidence, Fairfax County police officer Richard Henry said. More than $200 in items was taken in each of the burglaries. Most of the break-ins occurred overnight, and in most cases, windows or doors were smashed.
Henry said he does not know how the burglars chose their targets, which included churches of many denominations, a public relations firm doing work with low-income workers and a mortgage company.
Matthew Sockrider, an admissions counselor with Job Corps, whose administrator, the Jackson Pierce public relations firm, was burglarized Memorial Day weekend, said two laptops, a briefcase and his paycheck, which was inside the briefcase, were taken.
"Business has gone on as usual. Obviously, we are a little bit more careful," said Sockrider, 25. "We've managed to stay on our feet."
Thieves stole all but two of the firm's computers. Four workers now share the two computers by working in shifts, Sockrider said.
In Alexandria, the Church of the Resurrection was burglarized just over two weeks ago. Burglars took $30 and a laptop computer. Michelle McBride, 35, a church administrator, said burglars probably struck while a folk band was performing there on a Sunday night.
"You do worry about the kind of motivation, or desperation, that they feel," said the Rev. Anne Gavin Ritchie, the church's rector. The Episcopal church is replacing and updating its locks. Ritchie lamented that even churches have to be on alert for crime.
"There's forgiveness, and there's accountability both," said Ritchie, 55. "Of course, any kind of rehabilitation would be wonderful. Unfortunately, sometimes that doesn't happen."
Barbara Buller, 54, a secretary at Dale City Baptist Church, which also was broken into, said: "They might even accept the Lord eventually. Sometimes when you get down in a pit, the only way up out of it is Christ."
Her church had an alarm, she said, and nothing was taken.