Churches not seen as sacred by burglars looking for copper


On Feb. 24, Old Fashioned Missionary Baptist Church at 515 Euclid Ave. had to cancel its Sunday service.

Destruction from a breaking and entering rendered the church unusable.

The church’s pastor, the Rev. Jeff Monhollen, was en route to church that Sunday when he heard about the burglary.

“A couple people had already arrived,” he said, “and called me on the way.”

Still, seeing it for himself “was a surprise anyway, because that [break-in] did a lot of damage.”

The public-address system and lawn-care equipment were among items stolen, but police said the devastation the burglars caused resulted from a search for copper. Ceiling panels were torn down, a baseboard heating system was ripped apart, and copper pipes were removed from the water heater, leading to flooding.

The church is insured, the pastor said.

This is the second copper theft from Old Fashioned. The previous episode occurred last summer.

“We had two air-conditioning units,” Pastor Monhollen said, and thieves “got up there, it’s like 10 feet off the ground, and they pulled the air conditioners off the pedestals.”

The Blade reported in August, 2011, that four Toledo churches had been the victims of copper theft.

Houses of worship are not sacred ground for thieves, particularly people seeking copper and other metals that are sold to recyclers.

“By far, copper theft leads the way” for claims filed by religious organizations, said Ed Steele, risk control manager for Church Mutual Insurance Co., the top underwriter for religious organizations in the United States.

“For the past two years, we’ve been IDing copper-theft claims among all our churches across the country; 2,744 claims were submitted where copper was stolen from the facility in one fashion or another. Those totaled $18.4 million in damages that we had to adjust.”

Ohio was fourth in the nation for claims filed by religious organizations for copper theft; North Carolina was No. 1, Mr. Steele said.

Last year, copper theft totaled “47 percent of all theft claims Church Mutual experienced,” Mr. Steele said.

“When we dig deeper into those claims, air-conditioning units make up about 86 percent of those claims [and] 89 percent of dollars we spent out.”

To protect air-conditioning units, Church Mutual recommends industrial-quality cage-guard enclosures. Tamper-resistant hardware should also be installed, he said.

Pastor Monhollen said that repairs at the church are in the works and by Easter, Old Fashioned and its 175 members will be doing the “normal things that we always do,” he said. Old Fashioned Missionary Baptist Church has services on Sundays at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.