JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There is a neighborhood crime alert in the South Metro area of Jacksonville, where a crook broke into a church overnight, stole thousands of dollars' worth of valuables and left behind serious damage.
It happened sometime between late Thursday night and early Friday morning at Southside Church of God In Christ on Emerson Street.
The pastor, Bishop Ed Robinson, told News4Jax on Friday that in his more than 30 years with the church, nothing like this had ever happened before.
"At 6:15 (in the morning), we came in and saw all of this here damage to the front entrance of the church -- the section of glass completely torn down, tore up, glass everywhere," Robinson said. "It was horrifying and disappointing to see the Lord's house in rubbish all because somebody thought we had something of value."
From the front lobby to the back offices of the church, the burglar left a trail of damage that Robinson said was unlike anything he had ever seen before.
"I haven't had not one real incident since I've been here at this church," the pastor said. "And to see that this morning was kind of horrifying, and disappointing as well."
The church's front window was shattered, doors were pried opened and kicked in, offices were ransacked and the pastor's safe was stolen.
Robinson said inside that safe were several expensive watches, a valuable coin collection and keepsakes from his recent 50th wedding anniversary.
In total, Robinson said, the thief stole about $30,000 worth of items, and he has no clue who's responsible.
"Years ago, that was unimaginable -- somebody coming into God's house and then do damaging things of that nature," he said. "I guess respect, not only in church, just all over, has totally almost disappeared."
Robinson said he believes the burglar is someone familiar with the layout of the church. Even if the person is caught, Robinson said, he doubts he'll ever see those items again.
"The memory of the things that we value is gone forever," he said. "So that doesn't make us feel good, not at all."
There were no working surveillance cameras at the time of the break-in. Anyone with information that could help police is asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500.