Ward 3 Selma City Councilman Greg Bjelke, who is also a junior usher at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Selma, shows the area of the church that houses the air conditioners.  The church has been victimized recently by theives stealing copper wiring.--Jay Sowers
Ward 3 Selma City Councilman Greg Bjelke, who is also a junior usher at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Selma, shows the area of the church that houses the air conditioners. The church has been victimized recently by theives stealing copper wiring.-- Jay Sowers

Downtown churches fall victim to criminals seeking copper

Published 10:18pm Saturday, September 28, 2013

Thou shalt not steal; especially from a church.

As basic as that commandment may seem to most, some local criminals have decided to do just that — stealing copper and other metals from a number of local places of worship.

Joy Thompson, facilities coordinator at Church Street United Methodist Church, said her church fell prey to thieves who stole copper wiring and condensers from several air conditioning units on site.

Three weeks ago, Thompson said, thieves made off with copper elements from one unit near the church.

Sadly, she added, that was just the beginning of the ongoing, and expensive, nightmare.

“The next day the air conditioning repair crew found two more air conditioners that had been hit, and the next night the thieves hit two more. So we have five air conditioners out right now,” Thompson said. “It’s a big problem because these AC serve our fellowship hall which we use all the time.”

Thompson said one of the air conditioners that was broken was providing cool air to the church’s sanctuary.

Replacement parts were schedule to be shipped to the church early last week.

Thompson said the church has increased security at night in hopes of negating future crimes.

“We have hired a security officer because we had to do something. We have 16 separate air conditioning units out her and we are just afraid that they’ll come back,” Thompson said.

Church Street United Methodist is not alone in dealing with a recent crime wave — Selma City Councilman Greg Bjelke, who works as the junior warden at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, said he is seeing the same sad trend there.

While the activity has increased in recent weeks, Bjelke said the church has been hit by thieves numerous times since he first starting helping out at the church nearly a decade ago.

“It’s been a consistent, nagging problem for years, and if it’s not air conditioning coils it’s been gutters,” Bjelke said. “Anything made of valuable metal is being taken, and still, the damage costs the church far more than the tiny piece of copper these people are stealing.”

Like Thompson, Bjelke said his church is actively increasing security in hopes of curtailing the trend.

“We’re looking at security beams and dusk to dawn lights and new fencing to put around the church,” Bjelke said. “It’s just never-ending. You just try to outsmart the thieves so they can then outsmart you and you can outsmart them, again.”

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