Thieves sack religious centers

With desperate times calling for desperate measures, hard-up burglars are looting churches in San Francisco at an alarming rate, police said.

A staggering trend of unholy heists has particularly struck The City’s southwestern neighborhoods, where nearly a dozen burglaries at six churches were reported between mid-August and mid-September, said Lt. Jerry DeFilippo, head of investigations at the Taraval Police Station.

“With the tough economic times right now … we are seeing more burglaries across the board,” he said. “People are hurt and they’re getting whatever they can wherever they can.”

Only a few theft reports during the monthlong string appear to be connected to the same person, and some could be the result of homeless outreach efforts done at a church, DeFilippo said.

One burglar broke a window at the Parkside Gospel Chapel on Santiago Street and stole $5 and change from the donations box, he said. At New Life Church on Ulloa Street, two acoustic guitars and a bass guitar were swiped in a window-smashing robbery, DeFilippo said.

A computer was stolen during a heist at Grace United Methodist Church on Taraval Street, police said. And St. Francis Episcopal Church on San Fernando Way has dealt with the most break-ins — five since August.

New Life Church was burglarized in August and again at some point between Sunday and Tuesday, the Rev. Jeff Mammen said. Musical equipment and a laptop have been stolen. Mammen said the uptick in thefts has his parish’s leadership considering installing a new security system. The church already installed security lighting, he said.

“It’s a pretty quiet area; there’s hardly anything going on up there,” Mammen said. “We’ve probably taken some liberties because of that.”

At St. Francis Church, the kitchen and YMCA preschool were each hit twice, and the rector’s office once, said parish administrator Christine Jugueta. Food from the fridge and a laptop were among the items stolen, she said. A thief broke a window in one incident.

“Apparently, one of the intruders had been making regular appearances for a year, often taking food from the kitchen refrigerator,” Jugueta said.

The church, located in the attractive residential Balboa Terrace neighborhood, has endured plenty of unwanted guests, she said.

There have been about five separate incidents in which a church intruder harassed ministers and volunteers for money, hurled racial slurs at teachers or acted aggressively around parishioners, Jugueta said.

Thefts at the church are not unusual given its open-door policy, she said. The church’s public meetings, thrift shop and preschool bring in a lot of foot traffic, Jugueta said. The parish lacks high security and volunteers and staff sometimes forget to lock up, she said.

But the thefts are happening at an alarming rate, Jugueta said.

“For a while there, we had something to deal with every week,” she said.

Jugueta speculated that thieves are spreading the word that the area’s churches have lax security, leading to an uptick in burglaries.

St. Francis may be in a nice area of San Francisco, but it’s still in The City and it sits along a public transit corridor, Jugueta said.

If the parish had its way, it would have police make regular rounds around the property, be included in neighborhood-watch programs, have volunteers provide security, or receive enough donations for a better security system, Jugueta said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

 

Bay Area NewsCrimeCrime & CourtsLocaltheft

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

U.S. Attorney David Anderson announces federal firearms charges against two men for their roles in a March 2019 shooting outside the Fillmore Heritage Center in a news conference alongside SFPD staff at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Departing U.S. attorney predicts corruption probe will continue

David Anderson shook up City Hall as top federal prosecutor

Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton, a former school board member, has been asked to help secure an agreement between the school district and teacher’s union. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
 <ins></ins>
Supervisor Walton tapped to mediate teacher contract talks

District and union at odds over hours in-person students should be in the classroom

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

A Bay Area Concrete Recycling facility that opened on PG&E property in 2019. Former PG&E employees have been accused of accepting bribes from Bay Area Concrete. (Courtesy of Bay Area Concrete Recycling via ProPublica)
Lawsuit reveals new allegations against PG&E contractor accused of fraud

By Scott Morris Bay City News Foundation Utility giant Pacific Gas &… Continue reading

Most Read