(FRANKLIN) - Authorities are on high alert in Johnson County after more than a dozen churches were burglarized over the past several weeks.
John LaBerge of WISH TV reports that the thieves have been making off with everything from expensive instruments to electronics to tools and cash.
Pastor Jeff Souders of Franklin Christian Fellowship Church said he has already forgiven those who broke into his church late Sunday night.
"They just opened all the drawers and went through all of our cabinets and went through all of our closets and didn't find anything. We don't usually keep money here except for the pop machine," Souders said.
The thieves stole $400 and caused hundreds more in damage.
It is not an isolated incident. In the past several weeks in Johnson County, 16 churches have been broken into, and Sheriff Doug Cox said investigators believe the break-ins are connected.
The burglars have most often used a crowbar to pry open doors and windows. Once inside, they seem to be targeting anything they can easily grab, including electronics, instruments and cash.
"We'll have an occasional church burglary, but nothing like were experiencing right now," Cox said.
The sheriff said he has already increased patrols around churches. Investigators are also asking the public to report any suspicious activities around churches.
Both Cox and Souders said churches are easy targets because many lack updated security measures.
"We're not fortresses," Souders said. "We are welcoming communities. We're communities that want to reach out and not build up walls. It makes us an easy target."
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