'Absolutely heartbroken': String of burglaries leaves Lincoln church reeling
Recently, burglaries at Northern Lighthouse Church have been almost as regular an occurrence as Sunday worship services.
Located near 14th and Fletcher Ave., the church has been the victim of almost weekly break-ins for the past three months.
Pastor Jennifer Vancleve told Channel 8 Eyewitness News a camera was installed three weeks ago - and quickly put to use. It caught the suspected thief taking donations from a charity box.
That money was intended for the church's charity auto program, which allows those in need to have their vehicles repaired and only pay what they're able and willing to. The program is just one of several charitable services the church sponsors.
"So when things go missing, it affects the community in big ways," Vancleve said.
Northern Lighthouse also maintains a prison ministry, which shuttles up to 40 work-release inmates to the church where they receive work experience and community support.
While the financial loss is significant for the small church, administrator Jodi Wilbur says the nature of the crimes tacks on an emotional toll.
"If you are trying to build personal relationships with individuals and some individual steps on your toes... that's where the anger and hurt comes from," she said. "That's where the trust is broken."
The recent rash of burglaries is far from the first time Northern Lighthouse has experienced problems with crime. Over the last decade, they've had multiple incidents of theft and vandalism, from broken windows to gas being siphoned from church vehicles. They even joke about someone breaking into the church buss and stealing the hula girl miniature from the dashboard.
While hurtful, the incidents haven't left the congregation discouraged.
"We would never stop what we do," Vancleve said. "We love what we do, and we see lives changed every day... so its really a blessing to do this."
Lincoln police said the man pictured above is a suspect in the robberies. Anyone with information about crimes is encouraged to call 402-441-6000.