Catholic Priests in the Bronx have reported an increase in petty crime, with thieves targeting parishioners during mass.

The Daily News reports that purses have been stolen from pews during Communion and cars have been broken into.

Rev. Francis Skelly of Immaculate Conception Church in Melrose told the paper the situation was very sad.

“You have to pray with one eye open,” he said.

According to Fr Skelly, at least five cars were broken into since September. He has had that many complaints about theft from pews, that he advises all mass goers to take their bags with them to Communion.

"You park your car in front of my church, it's going to get broken into,” Fr Skelly said. “They know they're in here for an hour. It's taking advantage."

Fr Skelly thinks the poor economy and addiction problems in the neighborhood are to blame.

In another part of the Bronx, Rev. Joseph Girone, who is based at St. Nicholas of Tolentine in University Heights, had the chain around his neck stolen right in front of his church.

“I see this guy running across the street,” said the Rev. Joseph Girone. “As soon as he crossed me, he just yanked it from my neck and kept running.”

“In a way, it’s a blessing,” Girone reflected. “When someone tells me they’ve been through a crime, I can say, ‘Yeah, me too.’”

Sarah Vega, 67, explained how she was targeted during a recent Sunday Mass, when a well-dressed blond woman sat beside her in a pew.

“I said, ‘Hi,” Vega recalled.

She left her purse in the pew but when she returned, her offering envelope for the church was gone and so was the blond-haired stranger. Another woman observed the blond woman putting her coat on top of Vega’s bag and later leaving.

When the called the police, they were told the suspect had targeted other Bronx churches, too.

“I felt very bad,” Vega said. “We come here to pray and ask God to help us. There’s no respect.”

Immaculate Conception Church in MelroseEmilio Guerra