Concerns are being raised that church parking lots are becoming targets for car break-ins.
The most recent incident happened Sunday night, while a service was being held at Fitkins Memorial Church of the Nazarene on 38th Avenue. Prior to that, parishioners at another church were targeted four times over a three-day period.
Within the last two weeks, four cars have been broken into at Fifth Street Baptist Church.
The first happened around 6:00 on a Thursday night during choir practice. At the time the car was parked at the very front of the church just yards away from Highway 45. Three days later, three other cars were also broken into with a brick, but this time the crimes happened at the back of the church.
'One of our church members actually spotted the perpetrator running through this fenced area here into Eastern Gardens Apartments,' said Bo Hawkins, a member of 5th Street Baptist Church. "A couple of the stolen purses were found back in this wooded area here.'
'About every Sunday we have a car or cars broken into at churches,' said Lt. Dean Harper, the Chief of Detectives for the Meridian Police Department. 'A lot of them are not locking their doors when they go to church because some unfortunately think, 'Well, I'm at church, nobody will steal from me.' Well, 20 or 30 years ago you're right, but now they'll steal from you wherever they get a chance.'
As officers investigate these recent car break-ins, Lt. Harper is stressing the importance of residents reporting suspicious activity.
'If they see somebody hanging out in the parking lot call it in.' Harper said. 'Let us come out and check it out!'
'We need to put a stop to this. It's going to take a combined effort of community and police to do this,' said Hawkins.
Once again, the items that are being targeted in the break-ins are things that are valuable and can be easily traded or sold; this includes: guns and electronics.
Anyone with information that can lead to arrests in these crimes is asked to call Crimestoppers at (601) 485-1860.