Church victim of 2 break-ins

| August 15, 2010

WASILLA — It was bad enough that the church had been burglarized and two computers stolen, but what really got to Robert Hicks was how familiar the whole scene was.

“This is the second time this has happened,” said Hicks, who shares pastor duties at the Christ First United Methodist Church at the corner of Fairview Loop and Knik-Goose Bay Road with his wife, Tori. He said the first break-in came six weeks prior to this one.

“The first time they did it they turned off the electricity to the whole place. I don’t know why,” he said. The lack of electricity didn’t cause any damage to the building or its contents. It was shut off late at night and was discovered early in the morning.

There wasn’t much damage this go-round. The thieves snuck through French doors in the back of the building, Hicks said. There was damage to a shed out back. The thieves pried that door open and tried to steal a drum set. The drums were left in the yard.

The first burglary resulted in more damage but less loss of property. Thieves that time kicked in the front door and damaged the door to the pastor’s office trying to get in there. The church lost one laptop in that burglary.

The replacement laptop was stolen in this second burglary, along with a desktop computer. Hicks said he understands that the church is vulnerable but isn’t sure there’s much he can do about it.

“There’s only so much you can do, obviously, with protecting a building that could go vacant for days,” he said.

He’s taken some security precautions — things he’d rather not detail for fear of tipping his hand if the church is to be hit a third time. But it’s not as if he can just decide to turn the church into a citadel. Part of the mission of the church is to be welcoming to all comers.

He said he thinks that both times the thieves grabbed the computers mainly as consolation prizes.

“They were just looking for cash,” he said. “I don’t know where people get the idea that churches have cash. We’re cash-poor mostly.”

Most churches, his included, take the money from the collection plate to the bank that same day.

Hicks said when he filed his report with the Alaska State Troopers, the officer he spoke with told him the break-in wasn’t a part of any trend. Anecdotal evidence watching police reports over the past few months bears that out.

It’s a shame, Hicks said, that people feel a need to take advantage of a church. This type of crime, he said, has ripple effects. And he’s not just talking about a congregation worried about security. The church does charity work. Having to replace three computers in six weeks means less money for the food pantry and for helping homeless people find housing.

“The whole community feels it,” he said.

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Category: Church Security