Thieves target East County church
Church members feel violated by burglaries
For the second time in less than two weeks, someone has visited Rivercrest Community Church in East Multnomah County, but not for worship services.
Sometime between 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6, and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7, seven heating and air conditioning units were stolen from the church's property in the 3200 block of Northeast 148th Avenue. The units, which were installed three years ago, had an estimated value of $9,000 each.
'We really got clobbered,' said Len Lukens, head trustee for the church. 'And from a church. This is God's sanctuary. Churches are a comfort zone and that's been violated.'
There were eight commercial condensers on cement pads outside the church. One unit remained when the theft was discovered Monday morning.
According to Lukens, those responsible for the theft knew what they were doing. They cut the locks protecting exterior power boxes to disconnect the power and severed connections from the back of the unit to the building. The condensers, which weighed on average 300 pounds each, were most likely carted to a waiting truck, Lukens said.
'We are assuming they had a flatbed truck,' he said. 'And we suspect the reason they didn't take the eighth one is because they ran out of room on the flatbed.'
The church carries insurance on the equipment, but it is not known yet if it will cover the cost of full replacement. Furthermore, this is the second claim by the church in as many weeks.
The church notified its insurance carrier of a burglary last week, after someone broke down the door to a shed on the church's property between 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, and 6 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. A lawn mower, garden trimmer, several garden tools and a couple ladders turned up missing. Insurance, Lukens said, would pick up $2,200 for the estimated $3,000 loss.
'But what we're afraid of is they'll cancel us,' he said. 'And what else might the insurance company ask us to do to guarantee this doesn't happen again? Locks? Gates? It's expensive to run a church and like everyone else, it's hard to pay the bills these days. This really hurts.'
Because most thefts in the caliber of Rivercrest Community Church's occur overnight, Portland police recommend businesses, schools and other institutions that utilize commercial condensers scrutinize their after-hours security.
'Surveillance video is always recommended for businesses and schools,' said Sgt. Pete Simpson, Portland Police Bureau spokesman. 'It can prevent criminals from targeting the location, and can assist police in developing suspect information.'
While the theft of electrical components and metals has risen over the last few years, Simpson was unable to confirm if heating and air conditioning units are becoming a new target for thieves. He did caution businesses to be alert to their suppliers, however.
'It's difficult to say where these units might go,' Simpson said, 'but certainly police would advise anyone buying used equipment, such as HVAC units, to thoroughly inspect them and ask for documentation proving they are legitimate.'