Local News

Durham Police Turn Tables on Alleged Church Vandals

Posted July 21, 1999

— Four teenagers got quite a surprise when they broke into a Durham church -- police were waiting for them. The police action was prompted by a recent rash of break-ins at Durham's Mount Sylvan United Methodist.

Police say the alleged vandals broke into various building using crowbars and hammers.

"They broke this glass out here, and of course, reached in and unlocked the door," explains Dr. Robert O'Keef, of damage to an office door.

Church and pre-school offices were main targets.

"They then broke this panel, which we haven't fixed yet," explains O'Keef of a broken office window. "We did fix it once but they came back the next night and broke it again."

Sylvan United Methodist Church was hit seven times since Memorial Day weekend.

The break-ins left church workers on edge and frustrated authorities.

"It makes you feel violated, you're scared. You don't know what they are going to take when they come back next time," says Connie Costello, a pre-school teacher at the church.

Authorities decided to set up a stakeout inside the church buildings. The alleged vandals, four teenagers, played right into their hands.

"I can't imagine what they must have felt," says O'Keef of their arrests.

Through all the break-ins, the sanctuary was the only building left untouched.

O'Keef says repairing the damage could end up costing the church close to $3,000. The teens, ages 14 to 17 years old, are charged with breaking and entering.


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