ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — The places that worshippers flock to are also a magnet for thieves right now in Rocky Mount and Nash County. In the past month, 11 churches have been broken into, some more than once.
The Rev. Bob McNeil of Sunset Avenue Baptist Church found his own place of worship had been hit a few days ago.
"It was a Wednesday morning first thing. I was coming to meet another youth minister. We meet and pray on Wednesday mornings, and we came in and got into my office and it was in disarray," he said. "They broke into all the offices and they did get away with a laptop we were using."
Investigators in Rocky Mount and Nash County say the break-ins are very similar to a couple of recent break-ins in Wilson County. Wilson deputies have arrested a couple of men, but so far the agencies say there is not enough evidence to link all the crimes.
Investigators say that by their nature, churches make easy targets. They say the suspects are taking anything they can grab and sell, usually electronics. In a few cases, even tithe money has been taken.
"They are all looking for something they can pick up and run with real quick, something that would be easy to get rid of," said Maj. Richard Jenkins of the Nash County Sheriff's Office.
"It's just disheartening to know that folks would break into what we would call God's house and get away with stuff that we need for (the) ministry," McNeil said.
Some congregations are boosting their security in hopes of preventing another intrusion. Detectives are also urging churches to keep any money collections in a safe or other hidden place until they can be deposited.