Law enforcement authorities say several churches in the southeast Minnesota region have reported air conditioning units being stolen. Authorities say the thefts have followed a similar pattern in that a reciprocating saw may have been used to cut the pipes of the air conditioning units. St. John's Lutheran Church just outside the town of Sargent is one of the victims of this apparent crime pattern. They reported three air conditioning units had been stolen from their church recently, but they're not sure when it would have happened. Church representatives say they may have been stolen during cold months, so people wouldn't have noticed their air conditioners were gone. They also say they have some feelings about losing those units.
"Well, it doesn't make us feel very good because why would you need to steal.....well, obviously I suppose they needed to steal to get money," says St. John's Treasurer Mary Wildeman, "The deputy said they probably took it to a junkyard up north somewhere and then they get money for it. And I thought, 'Well they're 25 years old. What could they be worth?' Well, I guess there's copper wire and stuff in there."
Collin Duling is the pastor of St. John's of Sargent. He also serves the Lord at Emmanuel Lutheran, just down the road from St. John's. He says while the thefts of air conditioning units is sad, he says his church will find the strength to get through such an event.
"It makes us feel thankful that we had just recently installed a keyless entry to our doors just in case something like this would happen," he explains, "Kind of a miracle that it was so timely for right now. But it also makes us remember how God has promised we're going to have trouble in this world, but Jesus Christ has overcome the world and we ought to take heart because of that."
Pastor Duling says churches out in the country such as his could be prime targets for a number of reasons.
"I can understand how out in the country, it's pretty safe out here where we live. There's not a lot of crime that happens just because of the nature of it, but that's the other side of the story. There's not a lot of watching that can necessarily happen as well. The other side of the story being things can happen and it goes undetected for a number of days."
St. John's church members say they're getting estimates for new air conditioning units. Pastor Duling also says other churches in the area might start using cameras or having people take watch overnight to prevent future thefts.
The Fillmore County Sheriff's Office says a similar incident happened in April. A Baptist church in Spring Valley reported four outdoor air conditioning units had also been stolen.