SUMTER CO., GA (WALB) - Sumter County churches are on alert after a string of burglaries, while deputies work to find out if they're connected.
Fingerprints on the window and a cracked door frame are an unsettling sight at the one place where crime shouldn't take place.
"You just wouldn't think in this day and age that somebody would come into a sanctuary, somewhere that you know to be safe, and take items out of a church," said Stan Josey.
Josey is a deacon at New Mount Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. It was one of four churches in Sumter County broken into since July, including one targeted just last week.
The burglaries share striking similarities. In each one, the crooks forced their way in and in each case they were after the same things - appliances.
Sheriff's deputies are now stepping up patrols while urging churches to keep a record of the serial and model numbers of their big ticket items.
However, they say with these churches being in rural areas, it's often up to the community to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
"I would much rather us get called out to find out it was just a deacon or the pastor checking on his church versus not getting that call at all," said Col. Eric Bryant, Sumter County Chief Deputy.
Deacon Josey also urged other churches to do what they can to avoid being next.
"You have got to put a plan in place because the person or persons who broke into our church and burglarized our church, they had a plan in place."
Sadly, the 8th commandment was broken in one of the most sacred of places, a place this church is now taking steps to protect.
"We will be getting that security system, we'll definitely be getting that security system," Josey said.
Deputies encourage church leaders who haven't checked their buildings recently to do so as soon as possible. They also ask anyone who may have seen or heard anything to call the sheriff's office at 229-924-4094.