St. Nicholas Catholic Church near downtown Houston fed up with recurring copper thefts

March 24, 2013 3:56:05 PM PDT
Members of a church just southwest of downtown Houston are fed up with persistent copper thieves vandalizing their sanctuary.

The historical St. Nicholas Catholic Church has been hit three times in the past week. It's an ongoing problem that's costing the church a lot of money.

Prayers at the church today included some for forgiveness, graciously extended by the congregation on behalf of the thieves.

"We're thinking about it, praying about it," Father Desmond Ohankwere said. "The best thing is that they should stop."

Preston Reed noticed damage to an air conditioner facing the street on Saturday.

"You can see where they tore up that copper there," the parishioner said.

Sunday morning, someone cut the copper off of several other units, leaving the church with only one of its six air conditioners working.

"It's pathetic," parishioner Percy LaFleur Jr. said. "I mean, stealing from the church; that's stupid. They could go steal wherever, but why the church of all places?"

The church has taken measures to protect its property with a sturdy iron fence and locked gate, plus an iron cage around the air conditioner itself, but even that has not stopped the thieves from consistently taking parts of the units.

"What else can we do?" Ohankwere asked. "We have security. We have everything, but they beat all these to get in."

Each repair is costing the church hundreds of dollars.

"[We're a] very small, Catholic community that's struggling to pay our bills," Ohankwere said.

Parishioner John Alexander says he used to patrol the streets around the church early in the morning. Other church members, fearing for his safety, asked him to stop. Now, he's asking the police department to pick up where he left off.

"We need help," Alexander said. "We need help protecting our property."

The church is still looking at other ways to provide more security. They say they will also work to repair the damaged units as soon as they can.

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