ROGERSVILLE — On Friday, Hawkins County authorities discovered 12 church burglaries, but by Sunday morning that number was up to 24 and climbing.
Sheriff Roger Christian said that as members of several Hawkins County churches arrived for morning services Sunday, they discovered that the buildings had been burglarized.
In most cases, the burglars used a pry bar on the doors to gain access, Christian said.
Not all of the offense reports had been filed as of Sunday evening, and an exact list of churches won’t be available until Monday. Christian said, however, he believes there were at least 12 new burglaries discovered Sunday morning.
Initially Friday morning there were a handful of church burglaries reported in the eastern half of the county. That prompted the HCSO to check all area churches, at which time several more burglaries that hadn’t been detected by church members were found by deputies.
It was believed that most of those burglaries took place overnight Thursday, although police didn’t rule out the possibility that the churches were hit over two nights.
Christian said he believes the church burglaries which were discovered Sunday morning actually took place overnight Saturday. With the publicity over Friday’s burglaries, Christian said he doubts whether so many church burglaries could have gone undetected Saturday.
The area where the incidents took place is the same as was reported in Friday’s burglaries. It was a section of Hawkins County east to west between Church Hill and Rogersville; and south to north from Beech Creek almost to the Virginia state line.
“Churches are such vulnerable targets because a lot of them are in remote, rural locations, and they’re empty most of the time except when they’re in session,” Christian said. “There hasn’t been a lot of stuff taken. They’re breaking in and going through stuff — I’m assuming looking for cash — not finding it and leaving and apparently going to another one.
“I think most of these took place last (Saturday) night, and I think one of them got hit twice.”
The motive is theft, Christian said, because the culprit isn’t vandalizing, although there was damage to the doors. In some cases there was actually cash taken, but most churches don’t leave cash in the church during the week.
“You would wonder, if they’re not getting much money or loot, why would they continue to do this,” Christian said.
Christian asks anyone with information about these church burglaries to contact his department at 272-4848.