The congregation on Sunday at the Lakeview Heights Baptist Church in North Tulsa is only about a dozen or so adults and children. But this week there’s something new for them to celebrate.
Darold Burton has been pastor here for more than seven years. He says the church has been plagued by theft for nearly that long.
“From November to January we got (broken) into seven times,” he said. “And then it went from seven to 11, to 15, to 17, to 19, to 21, to 25, and then (year before last) it peaked at 29.”
“Last year it kind of went down a little bit,” he said. “The biggest thing they took from us last year was the air conditioner.”
The church is located at about East 41st Street North and North Delaware, which is a neighborhood plagued by both poverty and crime. Despite the church’s proximity to the Police Department’s Uniform Division North, none of the perpetrators have ever been caught.
“We need the presence of the cops in her a little more often,” Burton said, “but if you’re stretched so thin, you can only do so much. And I understand that. I understand perfectly well.”
Burton says he thinks some of the thefts are committed by locals, members of the neighborhood—but not all of them.
“We have a lot of Section 8 homes, and transient neighbors,” he said. “They come and they go … I think these are drive-by break-ins too, they come in the neighborhood just to break in or do things.”
Thieves have taken everything from microwaves to basic toiletry items. Wanda Moye is a charter member of Lakeview Heights who, with her husband, raised two children in this neighborhood.
“Bad weeks, it was terrible,” Moye said. “They stole practically everything we had; (every time) we would replace something, well then they would take it away from us. It’s just been awful.”
A neighborhood watch group has been making an effort to combat the problem. But the theft hasn’t stopped.
That is, until a Tulsa World article in December highlighted the church’s problems. Enter alarm company Security by Black.
“We are installing a security system for them,” said the company’s CEO Scott Davis. He says he saw the newspaper article and decided to see what his company could do to help.
“It’s just really about reaching out and trying to help those that need it,” Davis said. “Unfortunately in today’s society, security is a necessity anymore.”
Security by Black donated the system, and it’s not charging the church the monthly monitoring fee. It’s not something the small church would have been able to afford on its own.
“This particular system, you’re looking at probably around $1500,” he said. “Then you have your monitoring … generally something of this nature you’re looking at around $35 to $40 a month.”
With the system installed, Burton says the church will be able to make some investments it wouldn’t have been able to risk before, such as replacing the stolen air conditioning unit.
Burton says he’s more immediately excited about being able to leave the church’s sound system inside the building.
For the past five years, he’s had to bring it with him every week and take it down at the end of Sunday service. Once, he left the system overnight, and it was stolen.
“That thing ain’t light,” he said.