by Victor Lopez
FORT STOCKTON--Thieves are targeting churches in town, even desecrating church sanctuaries.
Police are trying to track down the culprits. Investigators have a few leads but they still need something more solid.
"If they have the guts to break into a church, that means they can almost break into anything," Fort Stockton Chief of Police, Art Fuentes, said.
It may or may not be a coincidence that the churches in Fort Stockton, that have been burglarized in the last two weeks, are all within a 13 block radius.
According to Chief Fuentes, "The easiest thing they can carry out is money. They've had some stuff come up missing. They've had some articles come up missing, some religious articles. But just the disrespect they've done the churches, here locally. It's something that I know I won't tolerate it and the people of Fort Stockton won't tolerate it."
Chief Fuentes didn't readily give a motive for these break-ins, but they all have something in common, when they took place.
"They're picking when the church is probably the most vulnerable, when they've had a church service during the day and there's a large amount of money," Fuentes said.
Reportedly, only four churches have been targeted. However, while some have been hit only once, others have been hit two or three times each. That makes police believe the person or persons responsible have a well laid out plan in mind.
"I think they've found some weak points in these churches and they're taking advantage of these weak points, coming into those churches. One being, the time of day. The majority are happening at night time," Fuentes said.
Churches in the community are now asked to be on their guard and do whatever it takes to keep from being the next target and residents are asked to report anything they see that's out of the ordinary in their neighborhoods.
"As far as any crime prevention, make sure they lock all the churches. If they have to make a deposit, do it safely. Try to make daily deposits, not leaving money in the churches," Fuentes said.
Fort Stockton Police are following some leads already but so far have struck out. But that doesn't mean they're giving up without a fight. If and when they're caught, these bad guys face second degree burglary charges.
"If you're the person that's doing this crime, if you're not caught now, you'll eventually get caught. The best advice I can give for you, go ahead and stop right now," Fuentes said.