Rash of Church Break-Ins in Johnston County
Posted March 17, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST
BENSON — Thieves are targeting churches in Johnston County. The sheriff's department here says there has been a rash of church burglaries over the past three weeks.
Deputies say they believe a loosely organized gang of teenagers is responsible 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 Advent Christian, thieves pried open a door in the middle of the night and took all they could carry. The loss to the church, which had never been broken into before, was about $7,000. Holly Grove Pastor Ronald LaFevers says the stolen goods can be replaced, but members feel very violated.
Georgia Evans is a lifelong member of of Holly Grove who raises church funds by selling hand-made quilts. She says the news of the break-in was devastating 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 past weekend. Deacon Lavon Ennis says many people are affected by these break-ins.
While the thieves got plenty of loot, they didn't get everything.
Twenty churches have been broken into. Five juveniles have been arrested in relation to three of those cases, but police say they need help in solving these crimes.
Some of the churches are improving lighting outside the buildings and some are considering installing alarm systems.