Franklin County detectives are investigating the burglaries at seven churches where a van, electronics and musical instruments used during worship, and cash were stolen.
According to Sheriff Steve Pelton, there have been seven reports in two weeks of burglaries at churches in the county. He said the burglaries likely are connected.
He explained that suspects are forcing their way in through windows and doors, and targeting daily offerings and musical equipment, and other items that could possibly be pawned.
Pelton noted that the incidents resemble past break-ins at area churches.
“Several years ago we had a rash of church burglaries when a lot of electronics were taken,” he said. “Obviously we have stepped up patrols.”
He estimates that cash and property stolen from the churches is valued at $20,000.
The first reported burglary was Nov. 21 from Hilltop Advent Christian Church in Pacific where a green 1999 Ford E-350 15-passenger van was stolen.
On Nov. 25, the sheriff’s department received a report of a burglary at St. Clair Christian Church. The church office was ransacked and multiple items were stolen, including a laptop, video camera, electric guitar, two acoustic guitars, a DVD player and a bass guitar.
There were two reported burglaries Nov. 26 at Canaan Land Ministries near St. Clair and the Franklin County Baptist Association south of Union.
Pelton said a shed was broken into at the Canaan Land Ministries.
The pastor of the Franklin County Baptist Association reported multiple electronics stolen, including projectors, speakers, microphones, portable hard drives, flash drives, keys, money, a pop-up tent, a DVD player, antennas, flat screen and mail scales.
The Bethel Baptist Church near St. Clair was broken into Friday, Dec. 1. When the pastor arrived at the church, he found checks and cash stolen from the ransacked office.
A burglary at the First Baptist Church of Gray Summit was reported Sunday when church members arrived for services and found that someone had broken a bathroom window and entered the church. The sanctuary was ransacked and several pieces of electronics and musical equipment used for services were stolen.
On Monday, deputies responded to Virginia Mines Baptist Church near Lonedell where authorities suspect a burglar entered the church through a window in a meeting room and took several musical instruments. The church was ransacked during the burglary.
There also have been reports of break-ins at churches in Sullivan and St. Clair.
Pelton said he encourages residents and neighborhood watch groups to report anything suspicious to the sheriff’s office.
He added that church leaders should check on churches more often.
“Have the parishioners in the area check on their church frequently and report any suspicious activity or vehicles,” he said.
Authorities also are suggesting that churches take an inventory of valuables and remove cash from the building when it is not in use.
“Remove all money and valuables that you can when they are not in use,” Pelton said. “Items that cannot be easily removed or stored, obtain the serial numbers and take pictures of the items to help identify them if they were to be stolen.”
Church leaders also are urged to install security cameras to identify anyone at the church after hours.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau at 636-583-2560. Callers may remain anonymous.