By Keith Gushard
More than a half-dozen churches in northwestern Pennsylvania were burglarized this weekend apparently in attempts to locate cash and other valuables, according to Pennsylvania State Police.
“It’s horrible,” Trooper Scott Guerriero of the Corry barracks said when asked about the blatancy of the crimes. Guerriero investigated two of the burglaries in eastern Crawford County.
At least six churches were targeted in Crawford County, according to information compiled by state police at Meadville and Corry. There was at least one church burglarized in Venango County, according to state police at Franklin.
The majority of the burglaries took place between 3 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Sunday, according to police. The burglaries were discovered as ministers and other personnel entered their respective churches Sunday morning in preparation for the day’s services.
Titusville Free Methodist Church on Route 27 just outside of Titusville lost an estimated $400 after three lock boxes were stolen from its office area.
“Apparently a lot of drawers were tried,” the Rev. Timothy Dale Maybray said Sunday afternoon. “They were looking for cash because some envelopes were torn open, but the checks were left strewn on the desk.”
Maybray said several of the church’s filing cabinets were damaged as their locks had been pried, but weren’t opened.
The office at First Baptist Church on Main Street in Townville was burglarized and a small safe containing nothing of monetary value was taken from the pastor’s office, police said.
“It was small, but very heavy,” the Rev. James Riley said. “It was about 2 (feet) by 2 (feet) by 2 (feet) and very, very heavy.”
“I feel bad for any of the churches having to go through this,” Riley said.
According to state police at Meadville, the four other churches struck in Crawford County were St. Hippolyte Roman Catholic Church on Route 27 in East Mead Township; New Beginnings Church of God, Leslie Road in West Mead Township; United Evangelical Free Church on Route 198 in Randolph Township; and Pine Grove United Methodist Church, South Wayland Road in East Mead Township.
Several bottles of wine, a Channellock tool set, a rechargeable work light and various gift cards were stolen from St. Hippolyte while miscellaneous items were taken from both the New Beginnings and Pine Grove churches and apparently only windows were broken at United Evangelical, according to state police.
State police at Franklin reported Pleasantville United Methodist Church in Pleasantville was burglarized with a laptop and a safe taken from its premises.
People with information about any of the church burglaries are asked to contact Pennsylvania State Police at 332-6911 in Meadville, (814) 663-2043 in Corry or (814) 676-6596 in Franklin.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.