COLUMBIA — Five places of worship were broken into, burglarized or vandalized overnight Tuesday, and the Columbia Police Department believes the cases could be related.
Alive in Christ Lutheran Church on Southampton Drive, Congregation Beth Shalom on Green Meadows Road, Columbia Chinese Christian Church on Rock Quarry Road, Christian Chapel on Providence Road and First Baptist Church on Broadway were the five places of worship damaged.
Because nothing of great value was taken, Columbia Police Officer Jessie Haden said, "Chances are good this was done by young people."
While the three buildings in southern Columbia had little to no damage, that was not the case for First Baptist Church. This is not the first time the church has experienced this style of break-in, said Ed Rollins, 50, an associate pastor at the church.
“We think this may be the same person that has broken in three other times in last year just by the pattern of where he is going and what he is doing," Rollins said. "This time it was much more violent.”
Because of the security system First Baptist Church already has in place, they know the break-in occurred about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Rollins said the damage included broken windows and doors, and some personal items from desks were thrown around and broken. The only thing missing was about $10 in small bills and change that was on an office desk.
“I’m saddened that somebody feels that desperate that they feel like they have to ruin stuff just to get a bit of money,” Rollins said.
He said the people doing this seem to be going to the same rooms every time a break-in occurs.
“Each time we have increased security and this time we are having to look into a much more in-depth security,” Rollins said.
The three other places of worship were significantly less damaged than First Baptist.
The Columbia Police Department classified the incident at Columbia Chinese Christian Church as vandalism because there was only a broken window. Although a break-in was attempted, no one got inside and nothing was taken.
The Alive in Christ Lutheran Church did not report anything to be missing after a construction crew noticed one of its windows was broken and police said it was attempted break-in.
Christina Dablemont, 30, an administrative assistant at the church, said the church would take additional security measures to prevent break-ins.
"We are just trying to be more vigilant and better about implementing the security that we already have in place,” Dablemont said.
Haden said Congregation Beth Shalom reported that it was missing some change and some wine.
“We regret that a member of our community broke into our property," Congregation President Jim Krueger said in a prepared statement. "We are grateful that nothing of value was taken."
At Christian Chapel on Providence Road, entry was gained after breaking a window, but nothing was reported stolen. The incident occurred Tuesday night.
Haden said all of the break-ins could be related, and Columbia police is still investigating them.
Anyone with information can submit a tip to CrimeStoppers at 875-8477 or 875tips.com.