Odessa Church Fighting Crime with Goodwill

by Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - During the holidays, West Texans bring their valuables in and then go off to celebrate with loved ones.

It's an unfortunate truth, that's when thieves strike.

"With Christmas, you know, a lot of people do attend mass or church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and unfortunately some of these criminals are very well aware of that," Sgt. Mark Garza with the Midland Police Department, said.

But Crossroads Fellowship Church in Odessa noticed the problem and have their own unique solution, a volunteer security team.

One of the Crossroads pastors told NewsWest 9 it started as an outreach team that both welcomed and kept churchgoers safe after they noticed a string of crime on their own campus.

"We would have occasionally some cars that were either broken into or maybe some purses taken inside the church. We just decided we were gonna be preventive," Pastor Jason Harmeyer, said.

Churchgoers are greeted with golf cart rides to the door, friendly handshakes as they enter and watchful eyes for any hazards.

The team is made up of people trained in first response, medical aid and security.

They all volunteer their time, undergo background checks and are even trained for their concealed handgun licenses.

One volunteer told NewsWest 9, it's all about being friendly and conscientious while looking out for the suspicious.

"Simply our presence here, somebody might say 'we're not gonna pick on these guys because they might be more than we bargained for,'" Security Volunteer, Freddy Haltom, explained.

As for the best advice police could give NewsWest 9, it's all about taking the initiative.

"The number one thing is lock your cars," Garza said. "Two is taking your valuables inside or hide them in the trunk to where they're not highly visible."

It's all to help keep the holidays jolly and sometimes you have to fight theft with giving.

Sgt. Garza says again that thieves and burglars steal what they see. He advises to put all valuables in a safe place in your home and to clear out any electronics in your car from view by putting them in the glove compartment or under the seat.