Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008
By John Howell
Burglaries at three Panola County churches — McIvor Creek M. B. Church, Mt. Level M. B. Church and Viney Creek M. B. Church — last weekend bear similarities to a church crime spree that has plagued seven north central Mississippi counties in recent weeks.
The thieves target churches located in remote areas, kick down a door and steal electronics and audio equipment. To date eight Yalobusha County churches, five in Calhoun County, six in Carroll County, three in Montgomery County and one church each in Tallahatchie and Attala counties have been similarly burgled, according to published reports.
McIvor Creek M. B. Church, 16783 Hwy. 315, Sardis was hardest hit of the three Panola churches last weekend.
“They kicked in the door on the north side next to the cemetery,” said church member and Panola Board of Supervisors President Robert Avant. Taken were two keyboards and a large amplifier, he said.
“They ransacked the pulpit,” Avant added.
The burglary occurred after Vacation Bible School ended about 9:30 p.m. Friday, June 6 and before noon the following day when the janitor arrived to prepare for youth choir activity that evening, Avant said.
Spokesmen for Mt. Level and Viney Creek both attributed their lesser losses to burglar alarm systems in the church.
At Mt. Level, 3126 Mt. Level Road, Como, one amplifier was stolen after burglars kicked in a side door, church member Ron Taylor said. The church’s alarm apparently sounded.
“That’s the only thing they got,” Taylor said. “We were thankful that we didn’t lose any more than we did,” he said.
A passerby noticed the open door Saturday morning, Taylor said.
In spite of the similarities with other church burglaries in the seven-county area, Viney Creek member John Reed blamed the burglary at his church just off Highway 51 on Viney Creek Road on someone “inexperienced.”
“They kicked in a side door; you can see the side door from the road,” Reed said, ignoring the building’s less conspicuous rear entrance.
“They went through several drawers,” before they left, Reed continued.
Viney Creek’s alarm sounded “about five minutes” after the last person had left the building at the conclusion of an event Friday night, Reed added.
The eight burglaries in Yalobusha County have prompted stakeouts of churches by deputies and hand delivery of letters to churches urging extra precautions, including deadbolts and latches at both the tops and bottoms of doors, Yalobusha County Sheriff Lance Humphreys told the North Mississippi Herald.
“It seems whoever is doing these crimes does not want to spend a lot of time trying to get in,” Humphreys said.
Humphreys also asked churches to record serial numbers of anything valuable in the church, or to mark items with identifying marks.
Panola Sheriff Hugh “Shot” Bright informed county supervisors of the break-ins Monday, but efforts to gain additional information for this story from the Panola County Sheriff’s Department were unsuccessful.