St. Paul United Methodist Church’s outreach ministry the Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse at 2700 N. Roxboro St. has been robbed twice in the past three weeks.
One robbery at the coffeehouse was reported on May 25 and a second one was reported on June 9, said Kammie Michael, spokeswoman for the Durham Police Department.
The coffeehouse and its performance space have been broken into and robbed “five to six times” over the past year, said Richard Ward, Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse chairman.
Sacred Grounds does not charge a fee for its coffee. It only takes donations. On Saturday nights, Sacred Grounds hosts musical performances by Triangle-based and out-of-state artists.
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“We have desserts, cheeses, crackers,” Ward said. “If you show up with a nickel, you can pay a nickel. If you have a dollar, you can pay a dollar. If you’re down on your luck, just have a cup of coffee for free. That’s fine.”
After the Coffeehouse was robbed on Nov. 17, 2016, administrators had security cameras installed.
“They were more professional than the last two robberies,” Ward said.
Over $1,700 worth of musical equipment including amplifiers, soundboards, speakers and accompanying electrical cords were stolen from Sacred Grounds last fall.
But Ward said the new security cameras did their job well and he and law enforcement believe the two most recent robberies were committed by youths – most likely teenagers.
Around May 25, three young people broke a window and entered the coffeehouse and stole refreshments and an acoustic guitar off of a wall. The cameras captured the image of one suspect carrying an orange backpack.
On June 8, one young suspect, carrying an orange backpack, was caught on camera after breaking in through the coffeehouse’s roof and entering Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse through its ceiling tiles, Ward said.
“They got a little bit smarter the second time,” Ward said. “But a thief is never smart. Otherwise they would not be doing what they’re doing.”
Ward has been involved with the Methodist outreach ministry for the past decade.
The single suspect on June 8 wore a mask and gloves and found the security cameras. The suspect adjusted one camera, turning its lenses skyward away from himself and took a second camera off of its mount. The suspect also turned off circuit breakers, cutting power to part of the building.
But before they were turned off, the cameras did manage to capture images of the suspect going directly to the Coffeehouse refrigerator, where the suspect filled the orange backpack with sodas. Next, he took some brownies.
Serial numbers connected with equipment stolen from Sacred Grounds over the past year were disseminated by police to area retail establishments which specialize in used goods.
Ward said he and detectives recently made a trip to National Pawn and Jewelry on Hillsborough Road after the pawn shop notified authorities about discovering some stolen items taken from the Methodist outreach ministry.