Thieves hitting churches; two arrested

Sep. 03, 2014 @ 04:10 PM

Two Henderson men were arrested last month following multiple reports of stolen air conditioning units from local churches.

The string of thefts affecting five area churches took place between June 29 and July 30, according to the Vance County Sheriff’s Office.

Kenneth Wayne Clark Jr., 26, was arrested Aug. 16 and Rodney Tyler Creek, 19, was arrested Aug. 21.

Both men, of 516 Fawn Drive, face charges of felony larceny, felony possession of stolen goods or property, and injury to property to obtain copper.

Clark was jailed on $200,000 bond and Creek was jailed on $150,000 bond. Both have a court hearing Monday.

Air conditioning units were damaged or stolen from Livingstone Christian Church, Phipps Chapel, New Life Baptist Church, Young Memorial United Holy Church and Fuller Chapel.

There is at least one pending arrest in the case, according to the sheriff’s office.

The value of all the air conditioning units stolen or damaged is estimated at $35,000.

The state General Assembly strengthened laws against metal theft in 2012 when it passed the Metal Theft Prevention Act.

The Vance County Sheriff’s Office uses the new law to track down, charge and prosecute individuals in these cases.

The law regulates the sale of ferrous metals, which includes copper wire, copper clad steel wire, copper pipe, copper bars and copper sheeting.

It requires buyers to have a permit to purchase these items, to take a picture of the seller and the items for sale, and to record the seller’s vehicle information.

The law also provides criminal penalties for offenses related to the sale, purchase, transport and possession of nonferrous metals.

For metal purchases or sales less than $10,000, the charge is a misdemeanor.

South Henderson Church of God Pastor Gary Harper said his church has been robbed twice within the past two years.

He said three air conditioning units were stolen during the first break-in, and then last Christmas someone stole more than $600 of Harper’s personal money.

“I had an alarm system but the people who did it knew where all the motion detectors were,” he said. “They broke the windows in my office and stepped right in, and got all that money and stepped right back out. It didn’t even set off the motion detectors.”

He said he reported the larcenies to law enforcement, but no one has been charged.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.