Church AC copper theft trend continues

4 churches hit in NE Fla. in last 18 months

Published On: Nov 20 2012 03:25:36 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 20 2012 06:36:25 PM EST

The trend is continuing for northeast Florida churches falling victim to metal thieves who steal air conditioning units and try to resell the pieces.

The pastor at Springfield Christian Church said someone hopped a fence in the middle of the night this past weekend and caused nearly $50,000 in damage by ripping apart the church's AC units and raiding them for copper.

Channel 4 has reported on four churches that have been victimized by copper thieves in the last year and a half.

In the summer of 2011, the Church of the Good Samaritan in Middleburg was hit. Just before Christmas last year, thieves struck Deland Missionary Baptist Church on the Westside. In January, Divine Truth and Deliverance Ministry on the Westside fell victim. And Springfield Christian Church was the latest target.

Even churches are not immune from people who are looking to steal.

"I really feel sorry for the individuals or the guys that are actually doing this," said Charles Walton, lead deacon at Deland Missionary Baptist Church.

In December, the AC units outside of Walton's church were left in pieces, ripped apart for the precious metals inside. Walton said the damage was $50,000 or $60,000.

"Money that the church definitely didn't have," he said.

It took the church nine months to save up and replace its air conditioning unit. The church's units look much different now than they used to -- they're covered with cages.

"I think it's going to become a reality not only for our church, but for all churches, big and small," Walton said of the necessity of the cages.

The Church of the Good Samaritan's AC units have also since been replaced, and that church also has protective cages, which can cost hundreds of dollars and are tough to install.

Walton said each cage costs around $800, but Channel 4 crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said that for smaller churches, the cost may be worth it.

"Do I continue to invest in new AC units, or do I invest in something that can prevent this from happening, such as a cage or even surveillance cameras," Jefferson said.

As for whoever ripped apart Springfield Christian Church's AC unit:

"I think he's scum," church member Johnny Alexander said. "I think he's low-down dirty scum to steal from the house of the Lord."