Thieves preying on churches, charities
Police are investigating a crime wave of thieves targeting churches.
Detectives are trying to figure out whether the same people are responsible for at least four break-ins in the past five days, many on the north side. The thieves also stole from a nearby Habitat for Humanity office.
The church bus is part of Landmark Baptist Church Day Care ministry. But even churches are prey in a recent rash of crime.
"It's terrible," said daycare mom Holly. "It happens to everyone. It happens all around."
Crooks helping themselves to property at four churches and a not-for-profit that are just trying to help others.
Linda Gay with the Landmark Baptist says "When our director came in at 6 o'clock in the morning and started the bus, it was, like, really loud. Didn't know what it was," said Linda Gay with Landmark Baptist. "A loud...as if the exhaust system wasn't there."
And part of it wasn't.
A new catalytic converter is in place now to fill in for the one sawed off in the night. Bus driver Lori Mauldin says it cost "a little over $900" to fix it, a big hit for the church budget.
Apostle William Payne, pastor at Universal Church of Truth at 1900 E. 32nd Street, says the criminals "they have felonies and they can't get jobs."
He wonders who broke into a church visitor's car, stealing $600 in property. He blames overgrown lots and bad streets for thefts at his church, which once included air conditioners.
"It makes us vulnerable for them to come to rob and steal," he said.
In five days, four churches hit, two buildings broken into. One at 30th and Gale had a working building alarm. Thieves stole food from that church.
Even Habitat for Humanity had a lawnmower stolen from behind locked gates at 22nd Street and the Monon Trail.
At Landmark Baptist, it wasn't the first time the bus was targeted. In February, someone drilled holes into the gas tank, apparently trying to get fuel.
"The money we had to replace that could be used for our summer program, our after school program," church worker Shantel Lamb said. "Now we don't have that money."