SF churches looted by burglars


High tech surveillance cameras along with motion detection lights were installed Friday at St. Francis Episcopal Church on San Fernando Way. The church is spending $20,000 and hopes it will help stop the rash of burglaries here.

"I think it's the sign of our times, of the desperation that people feel and also people knowing that a church is vulnerable and many of us don't have security systems," Rev. Mark Ruyak from St. Francis Episcopal Church said.

In late August, thieves broke into the rector's office and took a laptop. One week later, they were back searching for money. In the past six weeks, the center has been burglarized five times.

In all, six churches were hit between August and September in the southwest part of the city and police don't think the break-ins are connected to one another.

"The different investigators from different stations are investigating these crimes and working together to come up with any leads that may identify a suspect. But at this time nothing indicates that they are related," SFPD Ofc. Albie Esparza said.

Someone broke into the offices of St. George Orthodox Church and stole the Sunday collection money.

"It's really sad, you know, this is our 13th, 14th year here and never happened before. The last month it has been more than one incident and it's very bad," church member Betty Agra said.

At these churches, burglars have stolen laptops, money, checks, musical instruments and food. At St. Francis, the sanctuary is the only place they have stayed clear of -- for now.

These robberies continue to rattle the nerves of churchgoers.

"Two Sundays in a row I was giving reports to the police in between services and the congregation was very anxious and on edge," Rev. Ruyak said.

St. Francis Church also has a YMCA preschool center and it has been hit twice. SFPD is urging people who live near these churches to report anything they think that may look suspicious.

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