Vandals target Arbutus church

Just about every night on the calendar is full at Holy Nativity Lutheran Church as organizations of all sizes, ranging from Boy Scout troops to Alcoholics Anonymous to a Chinese Bible Reading group gather for meetings.

When the last light goes out at the facility on Linden Avenue and the doors are locked, however, the activity doesn't always stop.

Sofas and other large pieces of furniture have been found dumped on its campus.

Last month, a picnic table on the grounds was smashed and a small playhouse was torn apart.

Earlier, the large, outdoor metal receptacle used to collect paper for recycling was set on fire.

There has even been an attempt to break into the garage on the church property.

While the church has been victimized by numerous acts of vandalism throughout the years, this year has seen more steady and frequent activity, according to Lloyd Geigley, property team leader.

"It's been more frequent," Geigley said of the vandalism.

The increase has prompted the church to add security cameras for the first time in its 33 years at it location, which is only a short distance from downtown Arbutus.

Cost for the installation of three cameras was nearly $5,000

The new security system allows Geigley and other members of the church to watch the area via their computers at home.

One night, Geigley saw six teenagers hanging out on the table, smoking.

"Six people hanging out is OK, if they don't destroy anything," Geigley said.

The video from the night of the damage is being reviewed by the security company, and hopes are high that the act is caught on film.

"A tree blocks [the view of] the table," Geigley admitted. "We are able to see the house."

In the future, Lloyd said he will be able to review the tapes without having to contact the company for help.

"The ability is there to do that," Geigley said. "They're training the secretary."

Alycia Lebo, the church secretary, is pleased that the church installed the cameras.

Adding to her feeling of security is the fact one came is aimed at the door. In the past, a mirror facing the door was the only way Lebo could see who was at the door from her office window. Now, she just has to look at the monitor.

"I'm here a lot by myself," Lebo said. "It makes it real nice. You've got to be safe."

Already, the small playhouse on the playground has been put together again by a parent of one of the school's preschoolers for children to use.

The picnic table will eventually be repaired, too, according Charlie Engebrecht, a member of the property board.

"Us old fogies want cooler weather," Engebrecht chuckled, of the volunteers who do the majority of the repairs.

Often, it is Engebrecht and Geigley who do the work, from fixing the knocked out fence rails around the storm water pond to removing the discarded furniture in the area. The two have also washed off graffiti on the playground equipment.

Other times, help is needed. Several years ago, a glass door was shot, shattering it. The church's large garage door was also destroyed after someone rammed into it several times. The new door has a chain across it to prevent anyone from getting too close.

Because the new playground was funded by a grant, the church cannot fence it or the property, according to Engebrecht.

"It is supposed to be used by the community," Engebrecht said.

The damages have cost the church thousands of dollars, even with the time contributed by volunteers.

"Volunteers have put everything back together again," Lebo said. "They do the painting and the repairs."

A police report was filed after the paper recycling receptacle was set on fire and another report was filed regarding the picnic table.

Baltimore County Police at the Wilkins Station have promised to patrol the area more frequently throughout the evening.

In the afternoon, an officer usually has lunch and works on reports in the parking lot.

"The police have been very helpful," Geigley said.

A few blocks down the road, Arbutus United Methodist Church has been fortunate, according to a staff member, in that there has been no major vandalism over the years outside of some graffiti.

Geigley has a theory why Holy Nativity has been targeted and it has to with its location at Linden and Shelbourne Road.

"We are in a corner here," Geigle said. "We see a lot of people walking across the property."

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