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Thieves targeting worshippers in Latrobe churches

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

While some parishioners in the Latrobe area were worshipping in churches over the past month, thieves were stealing from their vehicles in church parking lots, police said this week.

Since the beginning of April, state police at Greensburg have investigated about 60 thefts from vehicles parked at churches within a 5-mile radius of Latrobe, said state police Trooper Steve Limani.

The burglars are stealing cell phones, cash, computers and other valuables from locked and unlocked cars while the owners are inside the churches, Limani said.

If the vehicle is locked, burglars are executing a “smash and grab,” breaking a window and fleeing with what they steal, Limani said.

“Ninety-five percent of these kinds of thefts” are related to drug use, Limani said. Drug users are looking to steal something they can turn into cash for drugs or trade for drugs.

“Your high-end thief is not smashing car windows at a church,” Limani said.

To deter the thefts, Limani said valuables should be placed inside vehicle glove compartments or trunks.

Parishioners should be aware of their surroundings and be cognizant of anyone acting suspiciously, such as someone lifting the door handles of parked cars.

“If something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't right. Call us (at 724-832-3288) and become a good witness,” Limani said.

Latrobe police Chief James Bumar this week reminded residents that there have been several thefts from cars in Latrobe and surrounding areas during church services, as well as several thefts from cars in Latrobe that have been unlocked in the owners' driveways or on the street.

At Bethany United Methodist Church, 2415 Laveen St., money collected from parishioners was reported stolen at noon on Sunday, Latrobe police said. Police did not reveal how much money was stolen, but listed the theft as being $200 or more.

The pastor at Bethany United Methodist Church could not be reached for comment.

In addition, someone burglarized the sacristy at St. Martin's Church along Route 982 in New Derry on April 21, but none of the sacred vessels or priests' vestments were taken, state police said. The door to the sacristy was damaged, police said.

The priest at St. Martin's could not be reached for comment.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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