Churches in New Jersey have been a hot spot recently for criminal activity.

This is no surprise to experts, though. They claim places of worship have always been a popular and easy target for vandals.

Nick Irons, professor of criminology at the County College of Morris, said it's important to note that church vandalism cases - whether outdoors or indoors - rarely involve the theft of money or valuables. Damage is done, and that is all, proving that the act is meant to send a message and there's not much personal gain involved.

"It's done for a reason because religion has always been a hot bed of disagreement," Irons said.

(Photo courtesy of: Our Lady of Guadalupe Church)

It also helps that many churches' doors are open for several hours of the day, not always with staff on hand.

In Lindenwold, Pastor Joseph Capella is still reeling from thousands of dollars worth of damage to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish on the White Horse Pike - the product of a vandal, or more than one, who acted out in broad daylight on Jan. 6.

The crucifix and Easter candle were knocked to the floor, and votive holders were used to smash holes through several stain-glassed windows and doors, Capella said.

"We were just heartbroken to see what happened because the windows really are beautiful works of art," Capella told Townsquare Media. "We've never had this happen."

But perhaps his biggest concern was, and still is, the well-being of whoever committed this crime.

"I wish somehow we could reach out to them and help them," he said. "Shattered glass is one thing...but shattered lives are another thing."

Capella suggested this act of rage was someone's "call for help." Still, that's no excuse to desecrate a place that many use daily for solace and prayer.

According to Capella, prints were found on the shattered glass and were sent to the State Police for analysis.

Donations totaling about $30,000 have poured in since the damage was done.

Capella said some of the money will be used to install a surveillance system, which was, ironically, approved a week before the early January incident.

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