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Money in safe for hurricane victims stolen from Lodi church

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Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2005 10:00 pm

Some $6,000 of money targeted for Hurricane Katrina victims was stolen by thieves who removed a bolted-down safe at Lodi's Bear Creek Community Church over the weekend, Pastor Bill Cummins said.

The church on Lower Sacramento Road had just taken a special offering for hurrican victims Louisiana and Mississippi at its two services on Sunday. The safe, weighing 200 to 300 pounds, was stolen sometime between 10:30 p.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday, Cummins said.

Bill Cummins

Custodians discovered the safe was missing when they arrived at the church at 6 a.m. Monday, Cummins said. The safe contained up to $25,000, most of it in the form of checks.

"I was really shocked to think that someone would steal from a church; that's pretty low right there," Cummins said Tuesday morning.

But to compound it by taking money that was to go for people in New Orleans who so desperately need help, he said, "is about as low as you can go."

Bear Creek will again accept contributions for hurricane relief at both its Sunday services. This time, though, Cummins said he will probably have an armed guard to watch the safe to make sure nothing's stolen.

Cummins e-mailed his congregation, advising them to put a stop-payment on the checks they wrote Sunday. For those without e-mail, Cummins is sending letters to the congregation.

The safe also contained three or four credit cards belonging to the church. Someone tried to use one of them at a business on Fremont Street in Stockton, Cummins said, but the transaction didn't go through.

Collecting offerings from the congregation usually happens each week to support the church and various causes. During a typical week, money is collected at the Sunday services, put in the safe and deposited to the church's bank on Monday.

Since Gulf Coast residents still need money, Bear Creek will take another offering at this Sunday's services. But this time, Cummins said, he will probably have an armed guard watch the safe until the money is deposited at the bank.

San Joaquin County Sheriff's spokesman Les Garcia said Tuesday that the burglary remained under investigation. It appears that all doors to the church were locked, but no one forced their way into the church, Garcia said.

Garcia wouldn't indicate whether someone with access to the church could have stolen the safe.

"We're not ruling anything out," Garcia said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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