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Burglars on a spree hit four East Lake churches

Two young men have chosen the holiday season to go on a burglary spree of churches in the East Lake area, and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office wants the public's help to catch the culprits.

Authorities said the first burglary took place Nov. 26 when the pair gained entry to an exterior storage area at East Lake United Methodist Church on East Lake Road and made off with several pieces of lawn equipment.

The most recent burglary occurred Tuesday at Generations Christian Church on Keystone Road. After disabling security cameras, the men gained entry through a window, searched for keys and used them to get into administrative offices.

They fled with an undisclosed amount of cash and a computer tape they apparently believed held images of their burglary, authorities said.

In the early morning hours the day after Christmas, the pair struck the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection on Windmill Pointe Road. They stole money from a Coke machine. Profits from the machine are used to help send children to summer camps and youth retreats.

Church administrator Lynn Blackwell, 45, said she suspects the crime occurred when it did because the pair surmised attendance would be up and that there would be a lot of cash on the premises.

She called the pair's actions unfortunate.

"As a church we would of course forgive them," Blackwell said, "and ask them to take a very hard look at themselves and perhaps come back to church for a very different reason."

Authorities suspect the men also burglarized the Northlake Family Church on N Highland Avenue on Monday. The burglars stole an undisclosed amount of cash.

The first burglar is described as a white male, 18 to 20 years old, 5 feet, 7 inches tall and about 150 pounds with blond hair. He was last seen wearing a grey T-shirt, blue jeans, white tennis shoes and latex gloves.

The second bandit is similar to the first in age, height and weight, though he has black hair. He was last seen wearing a dark blue long-sleeve T-shirt, blue jeans and dark tennis shoes.

Their vehicle is described as a mid-size silver four-door.

Authorities ask anybody with information to contact Detective Ken Sokolowski at (727) 582-6200 or call Crime Stoppers toll-free at (800) 873-8477 if they want to remain anonymous.

Will Van Sant can be reached at vansant@sptimes.com or (727)-445-4166.

Burglars on a spree hit four East Lake churches 12/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 7:47pm]
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