Thieves Target Downtown Omaha Church

By: Melina Matthes

OMAHA (kptm) - A church congregation downtown is looking for answers. They want to know who is stealing from them.

They said thieves have targeted them in recent months and now a family heirloom is missing.

That family said they'd do just about anything to get it back.

The family said their car was locked and parked in the lot in front of the church for about an hour while they were inside at service. The crook broke out the passenger window, stealing numerous items inside including a diaper bag with two gold crosses.

Adam Oleson said, "As we're heading out to the car to go home she noticed that her window was smashed in. We actually saw a notebook sitting on the ground and she went and picked it up and realized that it was her handwriting and she just melted down from there, just started crying."

The Oleson family was just hours away from baptizing their youngest child at St John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church.

To realize someone had stolen their other children's crosses was heartbreaking. "In the back of your mind you would think that off all things that a church would be holy or sacred or protected but it's more you just feel like you've been violated," Oleson said.

"If stealing itself weren't wrong, this is just plain really wrong. There was a time when even among the less honorable the churches of the neighborhood were protected because people were brought up to know that you just don't mess with the church," Adam's Mother-In-Law and Alter Guild President, Angela Lewis said

To top it off, one of the crosses was a family heirloom. "One of them was an antique that was originally the godmother's grandmother's cross which we have no way of replacing," Lewis said.

She said it's not the first time the church has been targeted. Recently someone stole parking signs from the lot, including a handicap sign marking a spot in front. "These are strictly no use to anyone and strictly trophies on somebody's wall somewhere," Lewis said.

And before that she says a thief took copper parts off the church sprinkler system. "How do you steal from god? It's just plain wrong."

"The one thing to keep in the back of your mind is everything that we do here, all the outreach, all the community help, all the support that we do, anytime you vandalize a church you're actually taking away from the money or whatever we have that we can give to the community," Oleson said.

The family begs the thief to return the two crosses.

They said if you don't want to bring them back to the church in person, you can mail them anonymously and they add that if you're that desperate for cash, they'll even pay you to get them back.

St John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church has been downtown for 60 years.

Gangs spray-painted the outside years ago, but the members said it's rarely a target for crooks. Besides these instances, it has mostly been left alone.