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Police increase presence after church break-ins in East Texas city

Published: Sep. 5, 2016 at 1:00 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2016 at 1:57 AM CDT
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Pastor Caraway (Source: KLTV News Staff)
Pastor Caraway (Source: KLTV News Staff)
Church Burglary Suspect (Source: First Christian Church)
Church Burglary Suspect (Source: First Christian Church)

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Police in an East Texas City have increased patrols near churches after nine break-ins have been reported, seven of which happened in August.

Read More: Surveillance video shows one of six Tyler church break-ins

The Tyler Police Department is also investigating an attempted break-in that happened Thursday at the Saint Louis Baptist Church on Frankston Highway.
Church leaders spoke to us about the break-ins that have forced their churches to walk the fine line between security and openness.

Sammy Draper, associate pastor at the Tyler Tabernacle, says they're trying to quickly adjust after they were broken in to a couple of weeks ago.

"That's what you want your focus to be, that's what you want the conversation to be about. Not about layers and layers of security," says Draper.

"When you see nine churches and you have a trend, who's next?" asks Draper.
 
Video from First Christian Church in Tyler one week ago, showing a man stealing a safe, is exactly what Draper is talking about,

"It's insane, because I thought it [the number of break-ins] was at six and then I think yesterday, I heard it was at nine, and then it's like 'wow,'" says Draper.
 
It's an act that Draper says has him and even those in other cities asking questions.

"What's the motivation, where's it coming from, why? What all of a sudden has made churches the select choice?"

Pastor Ralph Caraway says he's thankful his church, the most recent target, was a failed attempt because the alarm went off. Caraway says unfortunately, this is something he's seen before.

"Crime does not care because you're a Christian entity," says Caraway.

Caraway agrees with Draper on an open door policy, but says unfortunately, that's been ruined for some places of worship.

"In reality, we have to deal with the fact that we have criminal elements that have no respect whatsoever for the church," says Caraway.

For now, both churches say they'll stick to their message, awareness, security, and forgiveness.

"It's sad when someone reaches that place, because there's so many opportunities," says Draper.

"Well, you have a depraved individual that needs, in need of spiritual help and if they come at the proper hour, they don't have to break in, the door's open," says Caraway.

Tyler police say at this time, they're not sure if there are multiple suspects involved in these break-ins. They ask the public to contact them if they see anything suspicious around churches after hours.

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