Records show crimes against stolen property are up 22% so far this year and a South Dallas church is an example of the problem.
Pastor Todd Atkins said the Salem Institutional Baptist Church has been hit by crime several times over the past year.
“We got a bus robbed. We had the front door kicked in. They broke into the sanctuary,” Atkins said.
Twice in the past few months, the pastor said copper from air conditioning equipment had been stolen from a cage behind the church.
After the last time several months ago, surveillance cameras and lighting were adjusted and early Wednesday morning church cameras recorded the latest theft of copper pipes from start to finish.
“We need the help of the community to identify this individual to ensure that not only is our church not vandalized, but the community, homes and businesses are not vandalized,” Atkins said.
On the recording, the thief walks towards the building, cuts the cage and crawls inside. He separates the copper pipes, slides them out of the enclosure, and then is seen driving off in the middle of the night with the equipment on top of his car.
Atkins said each air conditioning equipment theft causes about $10,000 in damage, and in total across all crimes, he said they suffered about $70,000 in loss or damage to the church.
“It’s meant to be a beacon in the hope community to say that transformation is possible, but in the middle of the night having this, man, makes our job that much harder,” Atkins said.
Atkins’ father is Dallas City Council member Tennell Atkins, who is also a member of the city council’s public safety committee that reviews police budget and policy.
“We need to get more neighborhood policing,” Councilor Atkins said.
That video, which clearly shows the theft in progress, should be enough for community-linked officers to catch the person, Councilor Atkins said.
“You go to the neighborhood, they know who the guy is. And so if we have boots on the ground and NPO, we can prevent some of this crime,” the councilman said.
Pastor Atkins said he won’t let the crime stop the church’s mission, but he hopes the video will help stop the culprit from striking again.
A Dallas Police Department spokesperson said officers are aware of the latest incident and will contact the pastor to retrieve the video.
Dallas crime figures as of April 6 showed that overall crime was down 6%, property crimes were down 3.5% and crimes against people were down 9%.
But categories of individuals that are up include murder up 10%, vehicle theft up 30%, theft of motor vehicle parts (including catalytic converters) up 15% and stolen property offenses up 22%.