RAEFORD, N.C. (WNCN) — Churches are big targets right now for burglars in Raeford.
Hoke County deputies are investigating recent break-ins at several sanctuaries along a stretch of Highway 401, including Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, God’s Way Temple, and Word of Life Temple.
“This is bad. When people don’t have enough respect for the place of worship, we are in trouble,” Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said.
“We want our churches, or any place of worship, to be sure that their facilities are secure.”
Security cameras at Word of Life Temple recorded video of a man in an oversized Adidas t-shirt breaking into the worship center. Peterkin said he thinks the same man is involved in the other incidents, and there may be others who also took part in going around and checking churches.
Detectives are investigating a bunch of other break-ins of homes and cars in the same area, but the sheriff said the church incidents are particularly unusual.
“It appears that the person that’s doing this (is) going in the kitchen area, they’re eating, fumbling around through the church, but they’re targeting the kitchen and maybe a little audio, but none of the audio things have been taken,” Peterkin said.
“They’re kind of making themselves at home, but we don’t want that because they’ll pass the word if they’re involved in any type of other criminal activity. Next thing you know, they’re really hitting the churches hard.”
Peterkin said people who break in may not take much during a first visit, but may look around to see what they can come back and get.
Members of the congregation at God’s Way Temple said they found one of their church front doors door open, but did not find anything of value missing. Trustee Janetta McMillan said she thinks whoever broke in planned to come back. McMillan and some of the other church elders met Friday with a security consultant.
The sheriff said now is the time for all churches to take a look at their locks and alarm systems, and to closely monitor their grounds for suspicious activity.
“We want to try to make sure we remind our worshipers that we as church people, we are not exempt from crime. We don’t want to let our guard down and we don’t want to take anything for granted,” Peterkin said.
Deputies are increasing their visible presence in the area through additional patrols.