Local News

N.C. Senate Passes Bill To Stiffen Punishment For Church Burglars

Posted May 3, 2005 7:29 a.m. EDT

— After dozens of church break-ins over the past year, state lawmakers say it is time to get tough. On Monday,

state senators

voted to stiffen the punishment for burglars who target churches.

Last year in Sampson County, thieves broke into a number of churches, stealing electronic equipment such as TVs and VCRs. Right now, it is possible for someone caught stealing from a church to be sentenced with just community service.

Authorities said that since they are considered places of worship, the offenses should be considered more serious. Their message caught the eyes of state lawmakers.

"[The new bill] sends a message to the criminal element that if you break into a place of worship, you're going to do jail time," said Sen. Fred Smith, R-Johnston.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate. It now goes to the House, where a similar bill is already circulating.