Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

Burglars with sweet tooth break into four Clearwater churches

CLEARWATER ­— The intruder left a trail of blood and Pixy Stix.

Doris Campbell, treasurer at Friendship United Methodist Church, walked into her office Monday to find her file cabinet drawers open and her Garmin GPS missing. Candy wrappers and a bloody tissue littered the floor.

"Very strange," she said. "It looked like they cut themselves. Then they got comfortable and stayed a while."

Between Friday and Monday, four Clearwater churches were burglarized, according to Clearwater police reports. The crimes remained under investigation Tuesday.

Beyond Campbell's GPS, someone swiped $5 worth of coins from Friendship United Methodist on Druid Road E between 2 p.m. Sunday and 9 a.m. Monday. Luckily, she said, the church started depositing most of its Sunday collection in a bank night deposit box nearly two years ago, after a similar break-in.

The intruder pried open an outside window, broke down the pastor's office door and rooted through desks in Sunday school classrooms.

"They must have been pretty disappointed," Campbell said, adding that the church now plans to install an alarm system. "They didn't get much."

At Light of Christ Church on Marilyn Street, a burglar slipped through a window into the Parish Hall on Friday and took an unspecified amount of cash from a religious goods shop, said a church employee. Nothing was vandalized. Nothing unusual was found.

At Skycrest United Methodist Church on Drew Street, someone partially shattered a window into the education building between 1:30 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday, said office manager Jo Dall. The church is now considering surveillance cameras.

"They only stole a little bit of cash, but none of our electronics," she said. "It wasn't serious. We were lucky."

At Grace Lutheran Church on Highland Avenue, an intruder broke through an outside door panel and stole a church-owned van after finding the keys between Sunday and Monday, Pastor Pam Smith said.

"They took a very small amount of cash," she said, "and a box of cookies from one of our freezers."

The intruder drove the white van with blue church lettering about a mile before getting out and leaving the keys in the ignition. The box of cookies remained in the back seat.

"We have a great deal of care and concern for our community," Smith said. "In light of this, we offered prayer for whoever was involved."

Danielle Paquette can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4224. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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