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'No respect': Denver church, charter school burglarized several times this year

Union Baptist Church vacant building vandalized
Posted at 5:14 PM, Sep 21, 2021

DENVER -- A property in Denver's Northeast Park Hill neighborhood has been burglarized and vandalized several times this year, and its leaders are worried when the thieves will strike next.

The property at 3200 Dahlia St. is home to Union Baptist Church, charter school Power Learning Academy and a baseball field.

Randy Sipple, who volunteers his time to help out the church with its maintenance, can count on one hand how many times the property has been the target of crooks in the past year.

"This has been almost four times," he said. "They're just constantly doing it. ... It hurts me. No respect."

First, it started with a break-in inside the church. Sipple says a TV and security system were among the items stolen. Then, they ravaged the vacant building, a former nun convent, across the parking lot.

"They gutted the building out. They broke all the windows. They took all the copper," Sipple said.

Power Learning Academy, which is adjacent to the church, has also been targeted on several occasions, director Zach Macaluso says.

The charter school had some of its laptops stolen along with security cameras. But worst of all, the thieves took all 18 catalytic converters from their nine buses.

The situation has left the students and staff devastated.

"Their thing is just more like, 'It's not fair,' you know? 'It's our stuff. It's for our learning. What are we supposed to do?' That's more how they're thinking about it," Macaluso said.

The devastation has also spread to the Marvin Freeman baseball field.

Members of the Southeast Denver Baseball and Softball League haven't been able to play there since spring because they can't water the grass.

Tom Nevin, a volunteer with the league, says thieves stole the sprinkler backflow preventer along with copper piping.

"We can't irrigate the lawn without it. It's not allowed," he said.

Nevin and Sipple replaced it and added a cage around it less than four weeks ago, but it was no match for the thieves who came back three days later and stole it again.

They stole an ATV, which was later recovered by Denver police, and vandalized a lawnmower, among other things.

"It's becoming worse and worse, and it's only a downgrade on our society when they hit a nonprofit school, church and baseball youth league. That's pretty bad," Nevin said.

Church and school leadership have reported each incident to Denver police. A spokesperson confirms no arrests have been made.

Each incident has cost the church, school and league hundreds of dollars in repairs or replacements. They hope by spreading the word, those responsible will be caught.

"Their day is going to come. God is going to pay them back," Sipple said. "It's going to happen, trust me. [What] goes around comes around."

If you have any information that could help detectives identify the thieves, contact Denver Police.

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