Several East Texas places of worship are now crime scenes. At least a dozen churches have been broken into, with burglars taking several items including stereos, computers and band equipment. The burglaries have occured over the last few weeks, all in North Tyler, according to police.
Just this week, the Bethleham First Baptist Church and the Zion Temple Apostolic Church were hit. "I'm a little disappointed that a person would go to this level to do something like this," said Zion Temple Pastor Hershal Massenburge. Thieves have targeted his church 6 times in the past week.
"They stole a Deer-Born heater, all of our lawn equipment, we have a television that we use for our children's church with the VCR, things like that, they stole that," the pastor said.
"We had a money jug which all of of the change we collect we usually save that to buy gifts for the kids around Christmas time, and so they came in and took all of that."
Pastor Massenburge said he is shocked and frustrated someone would steal from a house of worship.
"I'm thinking about all of the members that have contributed here and worked to get the items that we have here and then have someone just come in here and take it."
Tyler Police say the burglaries are likely the work of the same individuals.
"Alot of these burglaries happen and it's for quick cash," said Lieutenant Tom Giorgio with the Tyler Police Department. He said at least 10 other churches have been hit.
"We have detectives working on it and hopefully we will have someone in custody shortly."
In the mean time, Zion Temple plans on having a security alarm installed this week and all valuables have been removed from the church.
Pastor Massenburge said though the thieves broke in, they have not broken his congregation's faith.
"We're praying," he said. "We feel like God's going to bless us and restore everything."
Again, there are are no clear suspects at this time. If you've seen anything suspicious in the area, you're asked to call the Tyler Police Department immediately.