(KMOV) – A robbery at an East St. Louis church is just the latest in a string of crimes at churches, places thought would be sacred ground and off limits to criminals.
Since a man with mental problems shot the pastor of Maryville Baptist church four years ago, crime at churches across the nation has shot up 527 percent, according to a Missouri company that provides security advice and training to churches.
The Ira Grove Baptist Church in East St. Louis is the latest victim in a crime trend that stoops to a new low.
“It’s just totally, totally unacceptable to have someone there for a worship experience being robbed,” said East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks.
Nothing’s sacred to the burglar caught on surveillance camera breaking into the St. John Lutheran church in south St. Louis, where they’ve been hit at least a dozen times.
Security experts say crooks know where the people are is where the money is, so that’s where they’re going to go. They see churches, which are open and inviting and a little too trusting, as easy targets.
But that doesn’t apply to the First Baptist Church of Maryville, which has recently stepped up its security.
In East St. Louis, churches are being challenged to do the same.
“It’s not about police cause we can’t be everywhere,” said East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore. “However, we’re asking and reaching out to all the churches to implement neighborhood watch, implement security around your church, add cameras around your church, whatever it takes to be safe.”