Windows busted out, offices trashed, and money stolen. It's a disturbing trend that continues to make its way through Bryan, as the toll has now risen to 14 reports of break-ins, theft, and vandalism of area churches since the end of February. Some of those churches were hit multiple times.
The latest break-in was reported Tuesday afternoon at El Calvario Church on East 29th Street, just after noon, where police say windows were broken out.
Vandals and thieves have left their mark on several area churches, in some cases taking small belongings, and a big sense of security.
"Both times they came through these, this set of windows here," Reverend Jesse Myers of First Christian Church said.
It's a divine decree you learn about in church: "thou shall not steal." But recently that commandment has been broken by thieves in Bryan.
"I don't think it takes a genius to figure out they hit several churches hoping to find churches leaving their Sunday offering in an office drawer, or filing cabinet overnight," Myers said.
Reverend Jesse Myers' church, First Christian, has been targeted by thieves and vandals twice in just the past few weeks.
"Everything had been dumped, drawers open, contents put on the floor," Myers said.
But if it was money thieves were looking for, Myers says they came up a little short.
"Other than the few coins in the Coke machine, there is never money left in there," Myers said.
St. Andrews Episcopal Church wasn't as lucky.
"If you come around you can just see how the glass is pushed out, just the amount of force they used to push all the way through all that," Sean Lowey with St. Andrew's Episcopal Church said.
Although this time no one made it inside the church, several other things did.
"They started throwing the shovels and stuff through the windows," Lowey said. "It was just strictly malicious vandalism."
In the process, destroying century old stained glass valued by police at $100,000 a window.
But to parishioners they're priceless.
"We can't just go pick from a catalog, a church catalog of stained glass windows, and say yes this is it and then buy it," Lowey said. "Because they don't make these types of stained glass anymore."
Despite the recent break-ins and vandalism, both churches say it's a risk they're willing to take to share their message.
"We as a church feel called to be here, and feel we can make a difference," Myers said.
Both churches are talking about future safety options.
First Christian church is planning on installing motion sensitive security cameras, while Saint Andrews is discussing a protective plastic window to shield their stained glass.
Officials with St. Andrews say they already have an alarm system, but believe if somebody wants to damage to their building that they will find a way no matter what security measures are in place.
Police say the break-ins appear to be wide-spread throughout the city, and they are investigating each case individually.
A suspect in the St. Andrews vandalism report is in custody on unrelated charges.
Detectives say they're still looking for suspects in the other 13 incidents.
They say it's unclear if the cases are related.
If anyone has information on these burglaries, you're asked to call Bryan Police at 361-3888.
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