ST. PETERSBURG — Police are investigating another rash of church burglaries, the pace of which has accelerated in recent weeks.
The first of the eight break-ins took place March 30. But the most recent five started June 25 and occurred over 18 days.
Church administration manager Connie Gregg remembers what it felt like when parishioners discovered that Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, 4901 Fifth Ave. N, had been broken into on June 25.
"You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach before you even enter the building," she said. "You think, what did they get?"
Nothing, it turned out. The burglars smashed the glass pane on a door and stood on the church piano in an unsuccessful attempt to steal a 42-inch flat-panel TV mounted to the ceiling.
Police are seeking a transient they suspect was involved in at least one burglary. St. Petersburg burglary detectives believe Robert Earl Warren, 42, was involved in a July break-in at Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church.
The five burglaries from June 25 through Sunday shared circumstances with three break-ins reported earlier this year.
Cash, tools, a camera and televisions were stolen, according to St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt. The burglar used similar means — breaking a window or prying open a door — to enter each building.
Court records indicate Warren was serving 30 days of a 90-day sentence for commercial burglary until April 14, but police would like to see if he knows anything about the earlier burglaries. Warren is being sought on a charge of burglary.
"He could have been working with someone else, he could have been solo," Proffitt said. "Those are things we won't know until we find him."
Proffitt pointed out several factors that makes churches especially vulnerable: They're infrequently occupied, usually they're not as secure as businesses, and their attempts to help the less fortunate can expose them to potential criminals.
Here is a list of the break-ins:
March 30: New Life Powerhouse Church of God, 3711 Fifth Ave. N.
April 18 to 19: Temple of Love and Healing, 3700 40th Ave. N.
May 4: Lion of Judah Ministry, 3251 Third Ave. N.
June 25: Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, 4901 Fifth Ave. N.
July 1 to 2: Cornerstone Community Church, 6745 38th Ave. N.
July 10 to 11: Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4000 Fifth Ave. S.
July 5 to 11: Anointed Church of the Living God, 4834 18th Ave. S.
July 11 to 12: Albright United Methodist Church, 2750 Fifth Ave. N.