A West Baltimore man has been linked to the theft of at least $25,000 in electronic equipment - computers, keyboards, sound systems and DVD players - from nine churches, city police reported.
David McCray, 40, of the 2400 block of W. Lombard St. worked odd jobs at the churches.
A police spokesman said McCray confessed to 10 incidents of theft from the nine churches and was charged in the five strongest cases against him.
McCray is accused of stealing twice from one church, Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist. He was arrested July 3, police said.
The equipment was reported stolen from the churches from April until early July.
Detectives got a break when a keyboard pawned at Simpson's Loan Office on Pennsylvania Avenue was linked to one of the churches, Maj. Michael Tabor, the head of the department's detective units, said yesterday.
Detectives regularly check pawn lists, and pawnshops are required to see identification before they accept goods, Tabor added.
The Rev. Dellyne I. Hinton of the Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church said sound equipment was stolen from her church just before Easter and then a month later.
She said the loss amounted to about $6,000.
The church has not replaced the equipment and the choir had to come down from the church's loft so that the congregation could hear them, Hinton said.
McCray had filled out papers to get assistance from the church, Hinton said.
"He worked his way into our good graces," she said, recalling that he was very helpful.
The bulky sound equipment was stolen during daylight hours, Hinton said.
"You just think that those pieces are large enough that no one would think of actually taking it," she said.
McCray approached employees or congregation members at the churches and asked for assistance or offered to work outside, Tabor said. Once people at the church trusted him, they would allow him inside, Tabor said.
In addition to Sharp Street, equipment was stolen from Payne Memorial, Douglas Memorial, Faith Tabernacle, Patterson Asbury African Methodist Episcopal Church, Ray's Temple, Zion Outreach Service Inc., New Antioch Holiness and Harvey Johnson Union Baptist, he said.
Detectives are looking into thefts from four other churches.
McCray is being held in the Baltimore City Detention Center on $150,000 bail.
McCray has five convictions for robbery, burglary, trespassing and drug possession, Tabor said.
Hinton said the members of her church have implemented new security measures and hope to buy a new sound system by Christmas.
"Material things can be replaced," Hinton said. "But not respecting the sacred is indicative of not respecting yourself.
"Folk are very desperate right now, and the unfortunate thing is there is no sense of the sacred any longer and anything is fair game," Hinton said.
She adding that her congregation was praying for the culprit.