Fresno copper thieves steal from church AC system

FRESNO, Calif.

With this warm up, crooks struck at the exact wrong time. The church says many people complained Sunday of the heat during services, but it didn't slow down their prayer.

As the church plans its repairs, the crooks are being offered forgiveness.

With temperatures nearing 90 degrees you wouldn't expect to see the AC breakers turned off, but electricity is not needed in this utility corner at the Fresno First Baptist Church. Early in the week, crooks jumped the brick wall and cut several feet of copper piping.

Joe Basile has been the lead pastor here for just two months. He was stunned to see what he calls a "hatchet job" at the church. The crooks made rough cuts on the piping then stripped the copper out of its casing leaving a mess behind.

Basile said, "They're risking their lives. Those are pressurized copper tubes. Those are popping open with Freon and they're going to get $100 bucks for that."

Sunday service was not interrupted as the air conditioning units inside the church sanctuary are still working but not well. The units in this room are overcompensating for the rest of the large and recently remodeled building.

The crooks damaged the air conditioning system in the church's broadcast center. Rooms at the church heat up quickly especially when all of this equipment is running inside; electronics that are easily damaged if they overheat.

Basile says he and his church are not angry. They're ready to forgive the crooks; people they say who are clearly desperate.

"They're hungry, they're scared, they're addicted and feeling like they have nowhere to turn. It doesn't justify what they did. But I'm in the business that I want to offer them forgiveness. I want to offer them love, empathy. I want to offer them help," Basile said.

Repairs here have not yet started but the church says it will enclose and secure that utility corner first. They're also planning to install motion sensors. Repairs are estimated to be around $5,000 dollars.

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