Church burglaries focus of Sunnyside townhall meeting

February 12, 2013 4:38:31 PM PST
Several burglaries targeting what many consider sacred places have rattled several Houston church communities. On Tuesday they came together to come up with a plan.

An "uptick" in burglaries of churches is how Houston Police Chief Charles McLelland describes more than 30 places of sanctuary that have been hit by thieves in the last three months.

Beefed up security in the form of metal gates around A/C units is what several places of worship in south and southeast Houston have been forced to do. Thieves have targeted copper from A/C units and anything they can steal from several smaller congregations.

"Going inside of churches and stealing electronic equipment and musical instruments. All of those type things hinder the worship of why we are at church," said Max Miller, president of the Baptist Ministers Association.

Since October, more than 30 churches have been hit in and around the Sunnyside community. After several pastors complained, it's caught the attention of city leaders and law enforcement.

McLelland and Councilwoman Wanda Adams called a town hall meeting. Many of the burglarized churches are small parishes with small budgets.

"They don't have the security systems that our larger congregations have. So they are easy prey and they know that no one is watching, " Adams said.

A big expensive security system doesn't always have to be the answer. Chief McLelland says it's a time to band to together.

"Participate in neighborhood watches and taking turns in driving by these church locations and reporting suspicious activity," he said.

And for the smaller congregations, they say any potential thief in need of help can just ask.

"A lot of us have benevolence and things of that nature that we will assist, but most of all this is gods house. We out to have respect for God's house, if we don't have respect for no other house," Miller said.

Chief McLelland is offering free security safety survey for the churches in the area and more resources. Along with stepping up patrols, McLelland says bike patrol will also be added in the Sunnyside area.

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