Ross County Sheriff's Office Investigating 18 Church Break-Ins - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Ross County Sheriff's Office Investigating 18 Church Break-Ins

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The Ross County Sheriff's Office is investigating a series of break-ins at churches between November 8 and December 3.

A total of 18 churches have been broken into, some multiple times, according to reports from the sheriff's office.

"In my 18 years I have never seen this many in such a short period of time," said Ross County Lt. Michael Preston.

Preston said the break-ins are in clusters around Chillicothe, Kingston, Richmond Dale, and Yellow Bud. He said thieves look at the churches as soft targets and strike when no one is around.

On Thanksgiving Day, one or more suspects attempted to pry open the doors of Grove Christian Union Church. When they failed, the suspect or suspects broke a window, said member Ryan Smith.

"We figured between the money and video camera taken the thieves stole $400," Smith said. "We are good at helping people here and so are other churches, it is aggravating."

Preston said investigators are looking into the possibility that the suspect or suspects are breaking into churches and stealing money or items of value to support a drug habit.

"We definitely have a drug problem in Ross county," said Juni Johnson Frey Executive Director of the Paint Valley ADAMH.

Johnson Frey said they were showing success battling the opiate problem, only to have heroin become the drug of choice.

"We are seeing people in treatment that are coming in and their first drug use was heroin," she said.

The ADAMH director said that through treatment, they've helped 26 people break the grip of heroin addiction, but that the heroin problem is an uphill battle.

Grove Christian Union Church called ADT Security to install motion detectors in the church to prevent any further incidents.

The sheriff's office recommends the churches in the area take all the steps possible to make the building a difficult target.

Preston said the community can also help by being their eyes and ears.

"If you see something suspicious call it in, it is the best way to help protect churches from thieves," Preston said.

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