Copper theft leaves Euless church sweating

| June 29, 2010

EULESS — It was not a fire-and-brimstone sermon that had congregants at Sheppard Drive Baptist Church all hot and bothered.

It was the heat — and the bother.

Thieves scaled locked gates and fencing Friday night and gutted five air conditioning units and disabled a sixth for the copper parts.

"They cut the lines and got spooked and left the sixth one," Pastor James Schoenrock said. "They probably did $50,000 in damage to get $50."

The church's insurance carrier, Guidance One, is working to lower the temperature at this church and some others, a spokeswoman said.

"We are starting to see this a lot more," said Carol Curtis, a claims adjuster for Guidance One. "Being a church has not protected these institutions. I've not seen any measures that have deterred these thieves. Some churches put cages around their units, and the thieves have cut through those, too."

Copper prices peaked at about $9,000 per metric ton between April and June 2008, according to a report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. During that period, insurance claims for metal thefts were most numerous, totaling 2,052, the report said.

By comparison, claims totaled only 483 for the same three months in 2006, when the price of copper was just starting to rise from about $5,000 per metric ton, the report said.

Police officers in Euless also say they have seen an increase in copper thefts from churches, but neither police nor insurance companies could provide statistics on the number of church copper thefts.

Typically, copper thieves hit strip shopping centers and new housing developments, said Senior Cpl. Brenda Buske, Euless police spokeswoman.

"Copper is real difficult to track," Buske said. "It does not have a serial number. You cannot take what someone sold and compare it with what has been stolen. Some companies are trying to mark their copper so it can be tracked."

No arrests have been made in this case, Buske said.

Schoenrock hopes to open the sanctuary for regular services Sunday, but with air conditioner companies going into their busy season, he said that seems like a tall order.

"We did Sunday's service in the heat," Schoenrock said. "It was an abbreviated service. We held Sunday school and a 35-minute worship service. Our worship services usually last an hour." His office and the day-care center are the only air-conditioned parts of the building now.

Schoenrock had a special message for those who ruined his congregation's cool: "I would like to say that you stole from God, and there is a price to be paid."

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Euless Police Department investigative unit at 817-685-1531.

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Category: Church Security

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