Crime spree hits 9 Longmont churches

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LONGMONT, Colo. -- It is a crime spree against unlikely victims.

And now we’re learning a string of brazen burglaries at churches in Longmont is growing.

Tuesday, we told you thieves broke into six churches in seven days.

But now, police say thieves targeted three more churches – f or a total of nine so far.

It’s a place people come to pray.

But lately, it’s a place thieves are preying upon.

“They had tried to open the doors you can see the pry marks where they tried,” says David McElreath, pastor at Ambassador Baptist Church.

They tried breaking into five doors at the church at 2015 3rd Ave. -- but failed.

“I really don’t understand it all. They desperately need money. This is a source of money. But we don’t keep money at our facility. Never,” says McElreath.

But they did get inside St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church at 1303 S. Bross Ln.

“It wouldn’t open. The key just spun inside the lock,” says Father Max Bailey.

Thieves broke the lock with a screw driver and stole keys and gift cards from Bailey's desk.

And it happened during a service, which worries him.

“If someone is here alone and stumbles across him. What kind of consequences could there be? So that’s more of my concern is keeping things safe here for the people here. A few gift cards don’t bother me,” he says.

Police also just learned thieves stole keys from Longmont Nazarene Church at 2111 Mountain View.

“My thought is they intend to come back and use the keys to gain access to the church, the offices, file cabinets, whatever else keys may open,” says Longmont Police Sgt. Joel Post.

These churches join six others including, Longs Peak United Methodist, where thieves made off with thousands of dollars in gift cards.

They also stole about $300 from a safe at Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

“Guess they were looking for cash and that’s what they took,” says Bethlehem’s Rev. Mark Peterson.

Two nights later, they made off with MORE than $400 in cash and gift cards from Messiah Lutheran Church.

“They came over here, tried to open the safe here and broke off the handle,” says Rev. Kent Schnegelberger of Messiah.

Thieves couldn’t crack the safe—which had about $5,000 in it from a special silent auction at the church the night before.

Churches say it means changing locks and exploring further security options.

It’s something they say is sad they have to do at all.

“My experience after 28 years of being a priest in this church, it’s easier just to come in and ask,” laughs Bailey.

“From my perspective it’s someone you pray for,” says McElreath.

Police are looking at two men—possibly a third—for each of the nine crimes.

One of the thieves is described as a white man, around 6’0”, 220-240 lbs., 25-35 years old with dark hair. Witnesses have described another man with short, light-colored hair.

Officers also say they have surveillance video—but they’re still waiting to download and review it.

They hope that will provide some answers.

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