Thieves target IW churches

Published 10:08 pm Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the thefts of various scrap metal thefts from Isle of Wight churches.

Between Dec. 1 and 8, Union Bethel AME Church in Smithfield and Mill Swamp Baptist Church in Ivor were targeted. Both churches lost their outside heating and air-conditioning units, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Kristin Wilda wrote in a press release.

Then between Dec. 12 and 13, Historic St. Luke’s Church on Benns Church Boulevard lost its custom-made copper drainage system, which was worth about $12,000, Wilda wrote.

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All three cases are pending investigation. The thefts appear to have taken place during the evening and nighttime hours, Wilda wrote.

“Scrap metal theft and subsequent sale to scrap dealers is a longstanding regional problem,” she wrote.

Existing state code requires scrap dealers to report sellers to their local law enforcement agency. Most are honest business owners and comply with the law, Wilda wrote.

But the lax reporting requirements mean the report could identify something as loosely as “scrap metal,” even if it is a clearly disassembled HVAC unit or a unique copper drainage system, Wilda wrote.

Anyone who knows the identity of the thieves or can identify scrap metal dealers who knowingly purchase stolen property is asked to call Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP. Callers to Crime Line never have to give their names or appear in court, and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.