Thieves, vandals targeting Kansas City church, forcing leaders to suspend services

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Crime seems to be increasing in one Kansas City neighborhood where even the church isn’t excluded.

The pastor of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church said they’ve been targeted three times with damages and stolen items costing upward of $10,000.

“They tore the ceiling out so they could get all that copper out of there. All of my audio, amplifiers, speaker systems are gone,” the Rev. Olan Butler said. “People don’t see the church as a place that needs to be left alone, a holy place, just like any other facility. People break in and do whatever. Don’t think about God, Jesus, nothing else.”

The first break-in happened in June, followed by another in July and the most recent happened last week when the front door was shattered.

Butler also said officers were ransacked and checks were stolen then used.

“For that to happen, it really felt like the air had been taken out of my cells. We were looking forward to trying to get back to some state of normalcy. That was a very hard hit,” Butler said. “It was very defeating.”

The damage has eliminated the church’s ability to hold virtual services, and in-person services will be suspended until things can be repaired and replaced.

And it’s not just the church. Other neighboring businesses have also reported serious crimes in the last month.

According to Kansas City crime mapping, there have been seven reports of serious crimes within blocks of the church, including property damage, burglary, vehicle theft and assault within the last three weeks.

“Things are just getting worse. We haven’t had these kind of problems the entire time I’ve been here. So this is my 9th year, all of this has happened in the last few months. Something definitely seems to be changing in our area here. It is quite concerning,” Butler said.

For now, church leaders are looking for new ways to increase security measures and patrol.

Police reports were filed for all three cases, but so far police have not identified any suspects or made any arrests.

Butler is asking for the community’s help in finding who is doing this. If you have information, call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477. All tips are anonymous.

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