Police believe break-ins are linked

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cape Girardeau police are investigating a string of burglaries that targeted area churches this month.

Police spokesman Jason Selzer said police think the burglaries are related, based on the similarities of the buildings, the method of entry and the items stolen. As of Friday, there were no leads or suspects, he said.

"There was probably more than one person, but we don't know for sure," he said. "We don't have anything to say that there's more than one person."

Police were first alerted Dec. 1, when two churches reported break-ins with property and cash stolen.

The First Pentecostal Church, 3054 Lexington Ave., reported a Fender electric guitar with a custom strap valued at more than $2,000 was missing. Thieves reportedly broke out a window on the west side of the building using a landscaping block, said police spokesman Jason Selzer.

The next report was a report that under $100 in cash was stolen from a desk drawer in an office from First Christian Church, 2411 Abbey Road. The building was reportedly entered through doors at the church's east main entrance, Selzer said.

Three more reports followed Thursday at Cape Bible Chapel, 2911 Kage Road, First Free Will Baptist Church, 2919 Kage Road, and First Christian Church reported another break-in in which a laptop valued at less than $1,000 was stolen, Selzer said.

A computer had been moved to the doorway of the Cape Bible Chapel, Selzer said, but something must have frightened the burglar or burglars away because nothing was reported missing, although the door window had been smashed in with a block.

An office window had been broken out at First Free Will Baptist Church and a small fireproof safe was reported missing, Selzer said.

The break-ins are unusual for Cape Girardeau, he said. Two churches were vandalized last year "and those guys were caught," he said.

Officers are keeping a closer eye on churches on their patrol, he said.

Attempts were made by the Southeast Missourian to contact the victims. Only one church representative was available Friday for comment.

The Rev. Chad Cunningham of Cape Bible Chapel said the incident brought to light the goodness of staff members who came together to clean up the damage.

"We were fortunate as a church that we didn't have anything of value that was stolen," he said. "We had to replace a few windows. There could have been a lot more damage."

If the computer had been stolen, Cunningham said, the office would have managed somehow.

"It has reminded us to work on some backup procedures," he said.

While the First Presbyterian Church, at 235 Broadway, was not a target in the burglaries, the Rev. Paul Kabo warned that it was important to realize not everyone who attends church or come around churches are wanting to engage in prayer.

"Some of them are wanting to be thieves," he said. "And our Bible talks about that we are sinners and we are. It's unfortunate."

Kabo said he thought those that steal from churches don't understand the ramifications of doing so and that perhaps the incidents may be somehow related to the upcoming Christmas holiday.

Police are asking that anyone with information about the thefts call Southeast Missouri CrimeStoppers tip line at 332-0500 or police headquarters at 335-6621.

cschmidlkofer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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