GRASMERE — Two men were arrested Friday after police found them allegedly carting off crates of stolen bottled water, intended for a Staten Island church's ongoing Sandy relief efforts, according to police.
The Christian Pentecostal Church on Richmond Road has been helping hundreds of families a week by supplying food, water, and cleaning supplies in the months following the hurricane, the Staten Island Advance first reported.
With the church's gated parking lot as a staging area, however, the handouts have attracted thieves in the overnight hours, the paper wrote, and police had been keeping watch after items had been reported missing.
Early Friday morning, cops witnessed two men opening the church's gate in the rear parking lot at 2:15 a.m., police said. The men then drove a U-Haul into the lot, and began loading it up with property from the church's staging area, police said, before taking off.
Police officers caught up with the alleged robbers a mile away, at Targee Street and Palma Drive, and recovered 35 cases of Poland Spring water, supplies that were meant to go to families without drinking water in their homes.
Edwin Rios, 48, of Arden Heights and William Banks, 43, of St. George, were arrested and charged with criminal possesion of stolen property, petit larceny, and criminal trespassing, police said.
Calls to the church and Pastor John Rocco Carlo were not immediately returned, but he spoke about the arrests with the Advance on Friday.
"Our donation center has been a wonderful effort with so many wonderful people, but when you see creeps like this it bothers me," Carlo, a retired NYPD detective, said.
"If you need it, come get it, but when you take stuff like this it's like stealing from God."