Churches on alert amid rash of burglaries

Fort OsageBy: Garrett Haake INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – Police in five jurisdictions along Kansas City’s northeastern edge are investigating a spate of recent church burglaries that could be related.

In the past seven weeks, burglars have targeted 16 churches in an area that stretches from Kearney to Lee’s Summit.

The Fort Osage Church of the Nazarene in Independence was targeted by thieves twice in the last month.

In the first break-in, the church’s alarm system was turned off, and burglars systematically worked their way though the pastoral offices, stealing five laptop computers and a small amount of cash.

“I just came in to find out that the church office and my study was in shambles and they had gotten what they wanted,” said Pastor Shaun Sutton, who discovered the damage the next day.

When would-be thieves broke a second window at the church nine days later, the alarm was on, and the intruders left with nothing.

Now, Sutton says, he takes extra care in setting the church’s alarm, and has added exterior lights around the building. He is considering installing security cameras inside, as well.

Burglars were likewise unsuccessful at another Nazarene church in Independence two weeks ago, where an alarm scared off someone who had broken a ground-floor window.

Pastor Rebecca Mulford of St. Mathew’s United Methodist Church in Independence said her church was not so lucky. Thieves smashed a window there and stole a small amount of cash and a digital camera in early May.

Neither church had security cameras outside.

Police believe the crimes could have been committed by the same people, and are asking the public for help tracking down possible suspects.

They have released a photo of a possible suspect — a white male in a red T-shirt — that was taken at one of the crime scenes.

At Wood’s Chapel church in Lee’s Summit, a burglar last Monday took a different tack. The man pulled up to a trailer in the church’s parking lot around 9 a.m. and snipped the lock.

A surveillance camera captured a white male loading several items into a white pickup before driving off.

The contents of the trailer had been collected for tornado victims in Moore, Okla.

“The whole idea that somebody would rob a church, or that somebody would take things destined for tornado victims is pretty disappointing,” said Jeff Brinkman, a pastor at the church.

But on Sunday, church members said that an outpouring of support from the community had allowed them to replace stolen donations many times over, and that the trailer carrying supplies will head to Oklahoma as scheduled early next week.

“When people heard of what this guy had done, it really did touch a lot of people, and the response has been very good,” said Craig Brandon, who helped organize the donations.

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