The pastor of a Brooklyn church whose office was broken into Sunday as church members delivered food baskets has an offer to whoever committed the crime: Come and talk to me, return what you stole, and all is forgiven.
On the other hand, said Dennis Hancock, pastor of the Brooklyn Church of the Nazarene, "if the police catch him and he doesn't come to me, yes, we will press charges."
Mr. Hancock and nine other church volunteers were out delivering Christmas food baskets to needy families Sunday afternoon when someone broke into the small blue house next to the church on Audrey Avenue. The house serves as the church's office.
When the group returned from their visits, several women discovered that someone had rifled through their coats and purses. Mr. Hancock noticed that a portable phone and the keys to the church had been taken. Later, Mr. Hancock, who also is a chaplain with the Baltimore City Fire Department, realized the scanner he uses to listen to fire calls also had been taken.
The biggest shock was waiting for Ida Ammenhaufer. Her purse and wallet had been opened and $7 taken. Then she could not find her car keys. She looked out the front door and saw that her 1987 Spectrum had been stolen.
"It's the only transportation I have," said Ms. Ammenhaufer, a nursing assistant at an infirmary for retired nuns.
"It's put me in a tough place."
Mr. Hancock said the theft exasperated him.
"We're in the people helping business," he said.
"If there was anything he needed, all he had to do was ask and we'd have given it to him."
The church pastor said he has a pretty good idea of who did the theft.
Earlier in the day, a man came to the office's door, asking for a drink of water and use of the bathroom.
Later, a neighbor living next door to the church office saw a man carrying wood around the backyard.
The neighbor thought nothing of it, assuming the man was doing some work for the church.
When he later heard the office had been robbed, the neighbor came to Mr. Hancock and gave a description that fit the man who came earlier, right down to the clothes.
Mr. Hancock also found a piece of wood propped up against the house, which the thief apparently used as a step to climb through the window.
Mr. Hancock spent yesterday changing the locks to the church and the office and meeting with security consultants to get an estimate on an alarm system.
He figures he will spend between $1,000 and $2,000 for window and door alarms, wave detectors, "the whole nine yards," he said.
"That's the sad part," he said. "It used to be that churches were left open all the time. And now we're going to have to spend money for a security system that we could have used in the community."