by Lisa Tome
Pastor Ted Tharp thought the concrete cage he built around the HVAC system would sufficiently serve as a deterrent to those who wanted to steal Pine Grove Church's outdoor air conditioning unit.
Pastor Tharp was correct. For a few years, nobody stole it.
The church, located at Blue Ball and Carter roads near Pleasant Hill, Elkton, was the victim of thieves just over a week ago.
Somebody stole Pine Grove's bolted down HVAC in a concrete cage unit.
The unit is valued at $5,400.
He reported the theft to the Maryland State Police. A new air conditioner has been ordered.
Pastor Tharp said that even the cost of the deductible, $500, is a huge burden for Pine Grove's 25 member congregation.
"It was pulled out. There were no marks in the grass," he said.
"This is God's house. They are going to answer for this. God saw this. God saw everything. They can fool me, but they can't fool God," said Pastor Tharp.
This isn't the first time the HVAC system was taken from the church.
In 2012-13 an epidemic of HVAC thefts were solved after three people were charged in connection with more than a dozen cases.
Those arrests solved the HVAC thefts at Pleasant Hill Worship Center, Providence School, Faith Southern Baptist Church, Bittersweet Golf Course, Nana's Kitchen, Fair Hill Village, Crossroads Bible Church, Cecil Arena, and in the Persimmon Creek subdivision.
At that time, Maryland State Police North East Barracks closed out cases at New Bridge Baptist Church, Pleasant Hill Worship Center, Pine Grove Baptist Church, Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, Rosebank United Methodist Church, Mercy Missionary Baptist Church, Charlestown Missionary Baptist Church, Union United Methodist Church, and the Elkton Moose Lodge. In these cases, the suspects racked up nearly 60 charges of theft, malicious destruction, and more.
Cecil County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Michael Holmes stated last week that there has been no recent rash of HVAC thefts.