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Rash of Church Break-Ins in Johnston County

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Benson Grove Baptist Church
BENSON — Thieves are targeting churches in JohnstonCounty. The sheriff's department here says there has been a rash ofchurch burglaries over the past three weeks.

Deputies say they believe a loosely organized gang of teenagers isresponsible for the break-ins. Missing items have included microwaves,public address systems and office equipment.

It's the same pattern at each church. Two weeks ago at Holly Grove AdventChristian, thieves pried open a door in the middle of the night and tookall they could carry. The loss to the church, which had never been brokeninto before, was about $7,000. Holly Grove Pastor Ronald LaFevers says thestolen goods can be replaced, but members feel very violated.

Georgia Evans is a lifelong member of of Holly Grove who raises churchfunds by selling hand-made quilts. She says the news of the break-in wasdevastating for her.

Chief Deputy Ken Smith of the Johnston County Sheriff's department says he believes the cases are related.

The most recent break-in occurred at Benson Grove Baptist this pastweekend. Deacon Lavon Ennis says many people are affected by thesebreak-ins.

While the thieves got plenty of loot, they didn't get everything.

Twenty churches have been broken into. Five juveniles have been arrestedin relation to three of those cases, but police say they need help insolving these crimes.

Some of the churches are improving lighting outside the buildings and someare considering installing alarm systems.

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