Increased number of church van thefts in Newport News

Posted at 12:11 PM, Sep 10, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-10 17:48:54-04

Newport News, Va. - Over the past week and a half, four vans have been stolen.  Most were taken from churches and all are located on the south side of Newport News.  Police say there were also thefts in August.

One of the vans was stolen from Parkview Baptist Church on Hilton Blvd Friday night.

"I was just really surprised that right in the middle of the parking lot, in a pretty high-volume area, that someone could pop the lock off and strip out the ignition to take the van like that," said Pastor Russell Beck.

The thief apparently didn't take it far.  A church member spotted it abandoned on Chestnut Avenue a few days later.  That's only about a mile from the church.

Along with damage to the lock and ignition, the backseat was also missing.  Other than that, there was nothing of value inside.

"The only other thing that I noticed is that they burned about 3/4 of a tank of gas, which is very valuable these days," said Beck.

Here are the places that had vans stolen this month:

East End Academy, located on 27th St.

New Tabernacle God of Holiness Church, located on Parish Ave.

Parkview Baptist Church, located on Hilton Blvd.

Ivy Baptist Church, located on Maple Ave.

"I really am shocked to find that other churches are having this problem, I thought maybe it was just a one time incident," said Beck.

Still, he's not condemning whoever is targeting the vans.  Instead, he's asked his congregation to pray for them.

"We deal with a lot of folks that are hurting and having a hard time, and we really don't understand their circumstances or why.  But even if it was taken just for the fun of it, it's still very important to always pray for those who are in need, and obviously this person is in need," said Beck.

Police are encouraging area churches and van owners to better secure their vehicles and observe the following tips:

•           Safeguard all keys

•           Ensure the vans are completely locked and secured when leaving the premises for

the day

•           Ensure all high value items in the vehicles are removed or concealed from view

Churches are also being requested to remind members to take similar measures for their private vehicles during church services.

Anyone with information regarding these cases, or any other crime, is asked to call Newport News Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.