Monday, November 28, 2011
From Break-Ins to Robbery at Gunpoint, Churches Experience Increase In Crime

From Break-Ins to Robbery at Gunpoint, Churches Experience Increase In Crime

In what could be a reflection of the current economic climate and the desperation it is causing, several churches have been robbed in the past few months, also indicating a rise in crime against the church community in the United States.

In Antioch, Calif., the St. Ignatius of Antioch Catholic Church has been robbed four times in the last two months, and twice robbers have taken 500 yards of copper wire, leaving the church without power hours before a Sunday service, the Contra Costa Times reported.

In Springfield, Ore., a "spate" of church burglaries afflicted the faith community there, with church offices being broken into and cash boxes being emptied in at least five churches, reported ABC News last year.

Also, in Little Rock, Ark., three young men ages 20, 17 and 15, walked into the Third Baptist Church with semi-automatic weapons during a Sunday service in September and ordered churchgoers to get on the floor before taking their wallets and jewelry, according to a Little Rock Police Department report.

There have been several more incidents reported in various media outlets, these being far from the only "church-robbing" incidents that have occurred. Also, different churches have had different responses to what appears to be an increase in church attacks.

In Antioch, Calif., members of the faith-based community there have banded together to "patrol" their churches at night, resulting in volunteers having a greater appreciation for their church and as well as an effectible crime deterrent.

"It's really touched me deeply to see these men come out here at all hours of the night. They're not about to let (the burglaries) deter them from what God is calling them to do," said the Rev. Robert Rien, pastoral administrator at St. Ignatius. He added: "I think that human presence has made a big difference.”

In Springfield, Ore., local police had dispatched a special "midnight patrol" to watch over the churches more closely. The efforts led to the apprehension of a suspect who had allegedly broke into a church and took cash from its office.

However, in the Little Rock church robbery, the preacher there said they are unable to do anything differently, reported the Houston Chronicle.

"Having Sunday service, you don't lock the door," the Rev. Elmo Robinson said. "The way I feel about it, we as a church have to go on."

With so many reports of people targeting churches for a quick buck, some have been led to believe that it is a symptom of a struggling economy.

R. Mario Howell, pastor at Antioch Church Family, one of the Antioch churches that has also been a victim of theft, said, "It's a desperate time for everyone, and people are starting to look at churches."

Nonetheless, according to FBI statistics, overall crime in 2010, the last full year for crime stats, is down, including burglary and theft, each down in 2 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively, from 2009.

However, the Christian Security Network (CSN), an organization that helps churches develop security plans, claims that during that same time, burglaries and theft of churches has actually increased.

According to CSN Executive Director Jeffrey Hawkins, there were 1,237 incidents reported in 2009 and 1,783 in 2010, an increase of nearly 50 percent, according to a report published by the organization.

CSN also said that the total cost to churches as a result of theft, burglary, robbery, vandalism, and arson in 2009 was over $6.3 million. However, at least a third of that was due to "internal theft," which includes fellow worshipers stealing from each other or church employees stealing from the church.

"As a society, we protect businesses, schools, banks and other institutions. Now, more than ever, that same level of protection needs to be extended to churches and faith-based organizations," Hawkins said.


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