A rash of church break-ins in central Pennsylvania now has the Snyder County District Attorney calling for community action.
Investigators say nearly 20 churches were hit within three counties in a matter of months.
State police say the Grace Reform Church in Adams Township was one of two churches in Snyder County most recently hit in a string of church break-ins happening in central Pennsylvania.
Investigators say a back door was pried open and $80 worth of food was taken.
Police say that brings the number of church break-ins to 18 in Snyder, Union and Northumberland Counties over the past few months.
“I’d say it's a bad thing because the churches are hurting anyway because attendance is pretty bad everywhere,” said Kay Gross of Beaver Springs.
“The reality is there are no places that are off limits to criminals so we had to do some self assessments and take stock to see what we can do to protect ourselves and our churches,” said Snyder County District Attorney Mike Piecuch.
Piecuch is now calling for community involvement. He is holding a public forum next Monday night at the Grace Covenant Church in Middleburg with a sergeant from Bucknell University's public safety department to educate residents on safeguarding their churches.
“Making sure that doors and windows are locked, making sure there's property lists of valuables in the church, both valuable from a financial point of view but also religious and sentimental values,” said Piecuch.
State police will not say if these break-ins are related but have released surveillance pictures showing either teenagers or males in their 20's from a burglary on April 26.
Police say those pictures were taken just days after thousands of dollars of equipment were stolen from a church in Union County.
Piecuch says whether the churches are being hit the same people or by numerous people, he wants it stopped.
“Number one, to help our churches think through how they can do self-assesments and protect themselves better,” said Piecuch. “And also to generate some awareness of what have people seen, what have they heard.”
Here is the information for the meeting on June 25 in Snyder County:
Grace Covenant Community Church in Middleburg
June 25, 2012, from 6:00 - 7:00 pm.
Featured Speaker: Jeffrey Ettinger, detective sergeant with the Bucknell University Public Safety Department and owner/president of Soaring Eagle Security, Inc.
Anyone with questions about the community forum may contact the Snyder County DA’s office (570-837-4233).