Rash of burglaries plagues Ocean Springs churches

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX)- "This time it looks like they just broke it," said Donna Dinero, looking at her mangled office door frame.

It's the second time in less than a year that someone's broken into the Administrative Assistant's office at St. John's preschool in downtown Ocean Springs.   And her little school will have to struggle to fix the damage.  She estimates it will cost about $100.

"They can't just replace the one board, they have to replace the frame usually," she said pointing out the broken parts of the door.  "This is extra that we really do not have to be able to spend on something like this."

Just across the street, St. Paul's downtown building was hit.  Not far away, thieves stole $400 from Christus Victor Lutheran Church.

"The greater expense to us is that we have two safes to repair and locks and a door to replace," said Pastor Terri Stagner-Collier, who also said her church was feeling the economic pinch anyway.  "Those things will probably cost more than $400."

"I think it's a little bit unusual that we had three churches broken into last night," said Ocean Springs Police Public Information Officer Michael Pol.  "Apparently, the evidence is leaning toward it could be the same people."

These break-ins are the latest in a rash of seemingly minor crimes that have been occurring in Ocean Springs for a few months now.  It started out as a series of auto burglaries, but now that churches and church schools are involved, some people are saying it's hitting a little too close to the heart of this community.

"I don't know why anybody would break into a church," Pol said.  "I mean the church is the community. And you break into a church, you break into the community. And I don't understand why anybody would do something like that."

Stagner-Collier said she believes its desperation, caused at least partially by the rough economy.  If it's people in need, churches say all they have to do is ask.

"We do seek to help people in the community all the time and do quite a bit of that, so yes they could come to ask instead of breaking in and damaging," Stagner-Collier said.

Pol said the police department is working to stop this string of crimes.  He also said there was no evidence suggesting that the church burglaries and previous car burglaries are related.