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Copper thieves strike again at St. Mark's United Church in Reading

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 31 2013 02:58:10 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 31 2013 05:16:24 PM CDT

Copper thieves target Reading church

READING, Pa. -

Thieves have hit a Reading church for the third time in a week. Now, congregation leaders are worried about the future of their house of worship.

"Oh my God, they hit us again."

That's what Phil Wylezik said we he got to St. Mark's United Church of Christ Saturday morning. Copper thieves struck the church again overnight.

"They totally wiped us out," he said. "They really need help if they're going to destroy stuff in the church."

Thieves cut open the church's metal fence and once again picked apart their seven air conditioning units.

"Getting more of the copper out that they missed the day before," said Wylezik.

In all, Wylezik estimates the damage at $60,000.

"They've totally destroyed everything," said Wylezik.

Police said all that damage is for very little return.

"In effect, they're destroying a $2,000 air conditioning unit and getting maybe $30 or $40 in return for the copper that they strip out of that unit," said Reading Police Sgt. John Solecki.

Investigators are hoping to find usable fingerprints, but without security cameras, they don't have a lot to go on.

"The police are back again, trying to see if they can retrieve any information from the damage that was done," said Wylezik.

In the meantime, this church's dwindling congregation -- now down to just 175 -- will have to swallow the cost.

"We'll have to go to the congregation to see what the cost is going to be," Wylezik said.

Church leaders are worried that cost may be the last straw for this shrinking congregation. In the meantime, they are visiting local scrap yards themselves, hoping to catch any leads.