UPDATE: Pastors, Police Speak Out on Rash of Church Thefts

UPDATE 9:30 p.m. -- "What popped in my head is, honestly, the person who stole this air conditioning, based on our biblical beliefs, when they die, when they go where they're going, air conditioning won't help," said True Vine Baptist Church Pastor Greg Oliver.

Oliver, True Vine's 19-year pastor, found out on June 7th he had joined a list of Ouachita Parish churches falling victim to air conditioner thieves.

"We've had these three reported burglaries, three of them, within the last month," said Monroe Police Sgt. Mark Johnson.

Mount Calvary Church on Beverly Street was hit June 8th, Philadelphia Word Church on Arnold Drive last Tuesday.

In all of these cases, thieves were stealing or ripping apart the AC units.

"They're basically trying to steal the components inside, the copper and all these other things that are valuable metal and they get very good money for that at scrapyards," said Johnson.

Police may have a lead after True Vine's theft.

The fact that the thieves made off with the entire AC unit, as opposed to gutting it for parts, means there will be a serial number which can be tracked.

Oliver said past thefts have already forced his church to hire Sunday security guards.

His new AC units, costing his church $10,000, will now come with cages.

"We're going to try to make it a little bit harder for them to come and take without asking," Oliver said.

Mount Calvary has already done just that.

Now, Oliver and law enforcement are warning other churches before they fall victim themselves.

"I would just say to other churches, first of all, get to know your environment," Oliver said.

"Put some lights up. Bad guys don't like lights," said Johnson. "Get some surveillance cameras, some deer cameras and things like that. Once again, those many not necessarily deter the burglar, but it certainly helps us catch the guy."

Pastor Oliver said he's taking this experience and applying it to the future direction of his congregation.

"I take fault and I take blame for it because when the church doesn't go to the streets, I think the streets eventually come to the church," he said.

Authorities are stressing they need the public's help to arrest these thieves.

If you have the details, call Crimestoppers at 318-388-2274 (CASH).

Law enforcement is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information that leads to an arrest and your name need not be known and will not be used.

For more information on the first two thefts, click here.


Monroe -- Monroe Police say thieves have struck a third church in the last month.

Now, they report True Vine Baptist Church on Dilling Street in Monroe had several AC units stolen on June 7th.

Police are still urging anyone to call Crimestoppers at 388-CASH with any information leading to the arrest of any of these thieves.

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