Burglars hit string of Conover churches

Conover police are investigating a rash of church break-ins near the city's downtown area.

In the past two weeks, three Conover churches and one downtown business reported break-ins. For each of the break-ins, police report burglars took only small amounts of money and broke windows and ransacked office areas.

"This person is not taking anything of value," Conover Police Chief Steve Brewer said. "This is occurring after hours in the churches, and most of them have been occupied up until 7-7:30 at night."

In the wake of break-ins, Brewer said police have personally met with churches in the area to make sure they are taking security precautions.

Conover Police is also increasing patrols in the area.

"We are also going to send out a community alert in the next day or two," Conover City Manager Donald Duncan said of plans to use the city's reverse 9-1-1 system to alert residents to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

The most recent burglary was reported Wednesday at Woodlawn Baptist Church about 7:30 a.m. The church was last secured about 10 p.m. Tuesday.

"The associate pastor arrived at the church and went in the front door and noticed the glass was busted out of the inner office doors," Brewer said. "Once he noticed that he came out and called us."

Brewer said when police responded to the church located on 7th Street Place NW, investigators found that burglars entered the building through the southwest side of the church.

"They broke out a window, climbed through and went inside," Brewer said, adding some offices inside the church are connected, with a sliding glass door serving as a divider. "They went through the sliding glass door and ransacked the offices. Then they went back out into the hallway and broke out an inner window and ransacked another office."

Apart from breaking windows, burglars took about $1 in change, a change purse and a ring valued at $5.

"They also took a ring of keys, and these keys are for every bus and vehicle the church has," Brewer said, adding that until they can be re-keyed church vehicles are currently being parked inside a secured parking lot at Conover Police Department. "They also took the keys to the Spirit Center, which is across from the Villa Park Shopping Center."

On Monday, burglars broke into an insurance office in Conover's downtown area, ransacked the office and took about $40 in cash and quarters.

This week's break-ins come after burglars broke into two other Conover churches last week. Brewer said burglars entered Concordia Lutheran Church by breaking a window, and once inside broke other windows in the church's office area. The break-in at the church on 5th Avenue Southeast was reported Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7:15 a.m.

"Taken from there was a brand new laptop delivered (to the church) the day before and a ring of keys that was to the church and the outside of the church," he said, adding Concordia Lutheran is in the process of changing all the church locks.

The computer was valued at $700.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, burglars broke into Faith Lutheran Church, which is across the street from Woodlawn Baptist Church.

"It was the same MO as far as entry, same thing inside," Brewer said.

"They took a small amount of currency and other items."

Brewer said investigators haven't found any objects inside the churches that might be used to break the windows, so they suspect burglars are carrying a bag with them to stow break-in tools and stolen items.

Anyone with information about recent break-ins at Conover churches are encouraged to contact Conover Police Department at 828-464-4698.