Cherokee County church struck by thieves

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Reported by: Sharon Phillips
Updated: 1/21 10:24 pm Published: 1/21 9:54 pm

Thieves are preying on the innocent and stealing common items out of local businesses and even a church.

FOX23 checked into the issue and explained how they're doing it and why deputies are having a hard time catching the suspects.

FOX23 went to the residence where one of the AC units was stolen from the Blue Springs General Baptist Church.

The thieves visibly cut the wires to get the AC unit it loose.

Joshua King is the church moderator.

He tells me last week one of the church deacon's came outside and noticed someone had stolen one of their outdoor AC units.

"It looked like there wasn't much time spent by someone who used some sort of tool to cut loose the conduit and loaded the outside unit into a vehicle or trailer of some sort," said King.

Being a small rural church that sits about 12 miles outside Tahlequah, this theft hit the congregation especially hard.

"When warmer weather gets here, it will be an additional expense," said King.

The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office says it's having a hard time tracking who is doing this.

"A couple of months ago, we did have a similar theft of some outside air conditioners and they did have some outside surveillance cameras but whoever did the theft took time to spray paint the cameras where they couldn't be detected," said Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault.

In the last four months, six businesses and churches have been robbed.

"You can see just how big and bulky these AC units are and that is why the Sheriff's Office believes that more than one person is involved in the thefts."

In the meantime, Joshua told FOX23 that he and other church members are relying on their faith to get them through.

'We're a smaller country church so it is definitely something that will hurt a little bit but I'm certain the Lord will provide," said King.

The Sheriff's Office said it has a good idea of why the thieves are targeting the AC units and what they are being used for.

They can rake in the thousands of dollars and they're vital in cooling off a large building, but thieves are targeting the very thing that brings comfort to others and this time, they're hitting rural churches.

Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault told FOX23, "more than likely it's the same person doing it and more than likely they are going to some metal scrap yards out of the county. We've been in contact with all of the scrap yards here in our county and they have been on the lookout for these air conditioners and nothing has come through their yard."

While Jason and his deputies search for the suspects, church members like Joshua King are struggling to figure out how to pay for another air conditioning unit.

"I know the unit we had was less than three years old and it had been replaced fairly recently and it will definitely be an expense that shouldn't be there for our church," said King.

I asked him if his church had any kind of rainy day fund they could dip into to help cover the cost.

"We have a fund I guess that we kind of dedicate toward building needs and as far as the structure so I'm sure we will be looking to access that," King explained.

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