Dougherty Co. church broken into, pastor to increase security measures

The pastor said this is the first time in the church’s 20-year history that they’ve had a break-in.
Published: May. 27, 2023 at 7:15 PM EDT|Updated: May. 28, 2023 at 11:31 AM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - A Dougherty County church has some repairs to take care of after damage was done in a burglary around 12:30 a.m. on Friday.

It happened at Berachah Fellowship Church on Cordele Road. The church is in a fairly isolated area but it does have security cameras and an alarm.

The cameras captured the burglar as he was going through the church. He had a flashlight and appeared to be looking for something.

It’s unclear if he stole anything. WALB has covered thefts at rural churches in the past. Last year on Moultrie Road, thieves stole copper from air-conditioning units.

Pastor Ronald Smith speculates this man was looking for money.

“I would say money. He was heading down the hallway toward our finance office, but the alarm scared them off and we can see him running away once the alarm started,” Smith said.

The church is not going to allow the break-in to impact their gatherings this weekend.

They were planning for their big outdoor event called “flock funday” on Saturday. Smith said that the event and normal church services will continue on Sunday, but there is fear for safety amongst some of his congregation.

“My job now it’s to calm my congregation down. I don’t want them to be tentative about coming back,” Smith said.

He said this is the first time in the church’s 20-year history that they’ve had a break-in. Even though it was the first time, Smith is making sure it doesn’t happen again. He doesn’t want potential intruders to think rural churches like his are soft targets.

“We have to move our security our awareness up and do things that we’ve never done before. I believe that it is a perception that churches are soft targets because we are spiritual minded,” Smith said.

The church is starting to do small things. They are removing markers for rooms and buying stronger doors.

They are also buying new tech that will give real-time access to cameras. This is to improve reaction time. Smith says he wants to see a similar security investment for all nearby churches.

“You need to consider that in the budget. What you’re going to spend for security because that should be priority over some of the other stuff that we purchase for equipment,” Smith said.

The Dougherty County Police Department is investigating this case.