Church Members, Neighbors React To Rash Of Church Burglaries

Their concern: the safety of their homes, families and neighborhood. A rash of church burglaries in North Tyler has residents worried.
"Sometimes when you have these things happen, you also feel like are you really safe in the church of God?" said H.L. Clement of Bethlehem First Baptist Church. In his 45 years as a member there, Clement could not recall a time when the church and neighborhood were afraid.
Thieves stole the finance computer and a stereo, kept in the church pantry, where the burglars ransacked some of the food given to charities and families in need.
"We're just happy that it happened at a time when no one was in the building," Clement said. "If whoever they were would take time out to break into God's house, then they will attempt to go into anyone's home."
Bethlehem First Baptist Church is one of at least 12 churches hit in North Tyler, where thieves are burglarizing mostly older churches without a security system.
It makes those living in the area uneasy. David Garrett lives near the Zion Temple Apostolic Church, hit 6 times over the past week.
"It scares me by living close to the church I feel like they'll start breaking in my house," Garrett said.
Charlotte Roberson has lived her entire life near the church. She said the burglaries come as a surprise in a neighborhood where everyone is either family or friend.
"I feel like if they're disrespectful enough to break into the house of the lord, they'll break into our houses and everything we have that we cherish that we work hard for."
Charlotte said she is keeping a watchful eye for anything suspicious. "We try to come out at night when we here the dogs barking anything out of the ordinary we come out and check now."
Neighbors and church members said they hope the burglaries end soon, before more than just electronics are put in danger.
Tyler police said there were no burglaries in the area Thursday night. However, the department said they will continue to patrol the area and hope to create a profile on the suspects. If you've seen anything suspicious in the area, call Tyler police.

Maya Golden reporting,