Houston RCMP have arrested a local man in connection with the break in and theft last month of close to $40,000 worth of electronic equipment from the Houston Fellowship Baptist Church.
Most of the items have since been recovered as officers continue to put together a complete package of information to send to Crown prosecutors in Smithers to seek approval of charges, says Sergeant Mark Smaill, the commanding officer of the Houston RCMP detachment.
“The male was arrested and has been released,” said Smaill in anticipating that eventual charge approval will result in a first appearance court date being set.
Until such time as charges have been laid, the person is not being identified but he has had what Smaill called “previous interaction with police.”
Smaill said officers became aware of the man they subsequently arrested after someone who had purchased a piece of electronic equipment brought it into the detachment.
“There was a lot of good police work here from the members,” he said, adding that the Baptist church break in the middle of March and one two weeks earlier at the Houston Christian Reformed Church were concerning to the detachment.
Nothing was taken from the first break in but there was damage because of the forced entry.
The Burns Lake Community Church was broken into the third week of March with approximately $8,000 in electronic equipment either stolen or damaged, leading police in Burns Lake and Houston to consider there was a connection between the three incidents.
That has yet to be established and officers continue to investigate that possibility, said Smaill.
“Essentially they were the same M.O.,” said Smail. “And breaking into churches doesn’t happen every day.”
Houston officers at first suspected the two Houston break ins were connected with a residential break in that happened in mid March. A person was arrested and is now charged for that residential break in with no connection discovered to the two church break ins.
Officers did piece together other information resulting in a search warrant being obtained and then executed at a local residence regarding the equipment stolen from the Baptist church.
That did not result in finding any of the equipment but officers then developed other information eventually leading to the arrest, said Smaill.
Pastor Larry Ballantyne of the Houston Fellowship Baptist Church welcomed news of the arrest and with charges not yet laid, noted there’s a long process ahead.
The recovered equipment remains with police for further testing and the church still needs to determine what is usuable and what has been damaged, he said.
“With the insurance claims, it will take some time,” added Ballantyne as the eventual insurance settlement will depend upon the condition of the equipment.
Despite losing its equipment, the church has pieced together enough replacement equipment so that there was no interruption to its online broadcasts.