Records show stolen property crimes are up 22% so far this year and a South Dallas church is an example of the problem.
Pastor Todd Atkins said Salem Institutional Baptist Church has been hit by crime repeatedly in the past year.
“We had a bus stolen. We’ve had the front door kicked in. They broke into the sanctuary,” Atkins said.
Twice in recent months, the pastor said copper from the air conditioning equipment has been stolen from a caged area behind the church.
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After the last time several months ago, surveillance cameras and lighting were adjusted and early Wednesday morning the church cameras recorded the latest theft of copper pipes from beginning to end.
“We need the community help to identify this person to make sure that not only our church is not vandalized, but the community, the homes, and the businesses are not vandalized,” Atkins said.
On the recording, the thief walks up to the building, cuts the cage, and crawls inside. He yanks copper pipes apart, slides them out of the enclosure, and then he is seen driving away in the middle of the night with the equipment on top of his car.
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Atkins said each theft of air conditioning equipment does about $10,000 in damage and totaling all the crimes, he said they've suffered about $70,000 in losses or damage at the church.
“It’s supposed to be a beacon in the community of hope to say that transformation is possible, but in the middle of the night to have this, man, it just makes our job even more harder,” Atkins said.
Atkins' father is Dallas City Council Member Tennell Atkins who is also a member of the City Council Public Safety Committee which reviews police budget and policy.
“We’ve got to get more neighborhood policing,” Councilman Atkins said.
This video that clearly shows theft in progress should be enough for officers connected to the community to catch the person, Councilman Atkins said.
“You go to the neighborhood, they know who the guy is. And so therefore if we got boots on the ground, and NPO, we can prevent some of this crime,” the councilman said.
Pastor Atkins said he won’t let crime stop the mission of the church, but he does hope the video helps stop the culprit from striking again.
A Dallas Police Department spokesperson said officers were aware of the latest incident and will reach out to the pastor to collect the video.
Dallas crime figures as of April 6 showed overall crime is down 6%, overall property crime is down 3.5% and overall crimes against persons are down 9%.
But induvial categories that are on the rise include murder up 10%, vehicle theft up 30%, theft of motor vehicle parts (including catalytic converters) up 15% and stolen property offenses are up 22%.