Thieves steal from multiple churches, Franklin County investigators say

There's a warning for area churches as A/C units, lawn equipment stolen

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – There’s a warning Wednesday for churches in Franklin County. Sheriff’s deputies are trying to find out who’s behind a wave of thefts.

Update, 5:30 p.m.:

Someone -- or some people -- are stealing from area churches.

Franklin County sheriff's deputies say eight churches have been hit in locations scattered around the county in about the last month.

Church members are surprised and frustrated.

Eric Ferguson, a deacon at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in south of downtown Rocky Mount, said a worker was cutting the grass when they realized someone had taken the church’s three air conditioning units.

“It's sad. It disappoints our congregation immensely because you live in a community where everybody is family. Everybody knows everybody and you just feel like it’s a great violation of the trust,” Ferguson said.

The church has since replaced the units. He said -- as a reminder -- at church, people are taught not to steal.

Ferguson said the church has been there 100 years.

“We're taking the precautions now. We'll make sure that doesn't happen again," he said.

Thieves often look to sell the copper and aluminum from heating and air conditioning units, which would net them a couple hundred bucks.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Major Mike Bowman said the thief, or thieves, also broke into storage units on churches' property and took lawn mowers and other equipment, most likely to sell them.

“You know that individuals don't have a conscience when they're looking at people, nonprofits and you're looking at what they're attacking,” he said.

Investigators have gotten tips and think it's one or maybe two groups of people committing the thefts.

“You just never know why they're doing it, but they're taking things that don't belong to them and we want to find out who that is so that we can bring justice to those victims,” Bowman said.

The sheriff's office is asking churches to keep track of information like VIN numbers so they can track stolen items, and it’s asking them to lock storage buildings and install better lighting and a video surveillance system if they can.

Investigators say the thefts happened between Aug. 17 and Sept. 20 at eight churches that are in the areas of Penhook, Wirtz, Ferrum and Rocky Mount.

The sheriff’s office has been meeting with churches and giving security presentations this year.

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