(Tate County, MS) A total of 11 burglaries into churches near the Tate and Marshall County line have investigators and all community churches on high alert.
In the last month and a half, seven Marshall County churches and four Tate County churches have all been broken into. Some of them had valuable items stolen, like laptops, flat screen TVs, and even X Box consoles from the youth rooms.
“How anyone can do that with a clear conscience at all and be able to sleep at night just amazes me to no end,” said James Wilson, the minister of youth and education at Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
Wilson said when he first heard of the break-in, he imagined broken glass and busted doors. Instead, he found almost no sign of intrusion. Only upon close inspection did he find doors had been pried open with tools like a crowbar.
About $3,000 to $4,000 worth of equipment was stolen from Mt. Zion Baptist. It’s the latest burglary of the four that have occurred in Tate County.
Seven burglaries in Marshall County are keeping investigators there busy as well. The two counties are now working together, and the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Authorities believe the same people are responsible for all 11 instances and that there must be more than one person involved.
In some cases, very heavy safes have been taken. One safe from a Marshall County church was dumped in Tate County.
“It’s actually sad that somebody would break into a church,” said Jeff Farrow, a Tate County investigator.
Farrow advises all churches to be on the lookout.
“I would recommend that they take home any electronics that they can take home, to their residence. Don’t leave money at the church, for sure,” Farrow said.
None of the targeted churches had surveillance cameras or alarm systems. Fingerprints are now being examined at a lab, though some say it could be difficult to glean anything from that, since hundreds of church-goers could have touched the same things.
“What they took was more than just equipment. What they took was time, and effort, and really God’s money,” Wilson said.
At Mt. Zion Baptist Church, an Xbox was taken from a locked cabinet that required the burglars to break through three sets of locks.
All items taken were purchased through contributions from church members over long periods of time.
When asked what Wilson would say to the burglars, he said, “You should be ashamed. And I would like to know how somebody is able to develop a mindset such as that they feel no remorse about breaking into a place of worship.”
Anyone with information is urged to call North Mississippi Crime Stoppers at 1-800-729-2169.