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Thief hits after youth fundraisercomment (0)

June 26, 2014

By Julie Payne

First Baptist Church, Athens, has been dealt a double blow in recent days. First the steeple of its mission church, First Hispanic Baptist Church located on North Madison Street in Athens, was damaged in strong thunderstorms the evening of June 9 (see story in the June 19 issue of The Alabama Baptist).

Then just a day later on June 10, First, Athens, suffered another setback when its church building was burglarized during the evening hours. 

According to Keith Smyser, minister of education and administration for First, Athens, it remains unclear how the burglar initially entered the building but it appeared the burglar did not use forcible entry. 

Smyser said that once inside, the burglar used a dolly to smash open the church office door and took one of the office’s desktop computer towers. 

The burglar also entered Smyser’s office to grab a souvenir baseball bat that was displayed and used it to break into the financial office where a small amount of cash was taken.

The church offices where the items were stolen are located in an older house connected to the church building, Smyser explained, adding the burglary most likely happened sometime after 9 p.m. 

First, Athens, discovered the incident the following morning, and the church has been working with the Athens Police Department ever since. Smyser said police have identified the suspect with the help of the church’s video surveillance footage, but at press time the suspect’s name had not been released.

Smyser said the church doesn’t expect its stolen items to be returned, but he expressed gratefulness that “all tithes and offerings ... had been deposited in the bank” before the burglary happened. He added the church had just conducted a major fundraiser for a youth missions trip and “fortunately all of that (money) had been deposited.”

For churches looking to take precautions to protect themselves against this type of incident, Smyser noted that while security cameras aren’t necessarily a total deterrent for thieves, they can potentially make them think twice before committing a crime.

Good policies

He also said First, Athens, has good policies in place with regard to depositing its offerings quickly. He noted churches should “look at how they do their offerings in the sense that they don’t want to have a lot of money onsite that could create potential break-ins. ... I think it’s real important for churches to handle the monies and get those into safe places as quickly as possible.”

Chip Smith, an associate in the office of LeaderCare and church administration for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, noted that church security is a broad area of concern involving four major components: property and attendees, minors, financial and transportation. While nothing is foolproof for a determined criminal, Smith offered churches tips for helping secure their facilities (see tips below). 


TIPS for securing church facilities 

1. Use thorny or prickly plants (holly bushes) under first floor windows to make break-ins more difficult (don’t allow the bushes to obstruct the view from the windows and doors).

2. Use fences and screens to control property access.

3. Parking lots should be visible from the street.

4. Patrol parking lots and grounds during services and activities.

5. Lighting is one of the best and least expensive ways to deter burglars and vandals with sufficient illumination to deter them.

6. Put lighting at doors, windows, skylights or any other areas of entry.

7. Protect outside lights with a cover so bulbs can’t be easily broken.

8. Keep property clear of rubbish.

9. Lock all doors and keep track of the keys.

10. Develop a Neighborhood Watch.

11. Regularly check for places of illegal entry (easy access to the roof where one can climb without a ladder).

12. Train those responsible for the facilities to know the ways to protect the buildings.

13. Leave on some interior lighting for law enforcement patrols.

14. Consider electronic security systems to alert and monitor.

15. Designate one person to lock and secure the building at the end of each activity.

(Information courtesy of Chip Smith, associate in the office of LeaderCare and church administration for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions)

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