Purse snatching at shrine a reminder to be vigilant

By Patricia Kasten | The Compass | June 15, 2016

‘Always have control of your valuables,’ says deputy

ALLOUEZ — Just as spring was about to come to northeastern Wisconsin, during Easter Week, a theft took place at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion. During daily Mass on March 30, a woman left her purse in the pew as she went to Communion. Someone else, seeing the opportunity, stole her wallet.

While the thief was not physically caught, her image was caught on the surveillance camera in the shrine church.

Walt Fountain, operations manager at the shrine, turned the tape over to the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. Fountain said that there are surveillance cameras in most of the public areas of the shrine.

So far, no suspect has been taken into custody, according to Sgt. Rick Loppnow of the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. Fortunately, he added, this type of crime is not too common in the area.

“Thefts and retail thefts happen all the time,” Sgt. Loppnow told The Compass. “It’s not very common in a church setting — but it does occur. Certainly, it’s not happening on a regular basis.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that people should not be vigilant — whether at the shrine or at any church. This type of crime is often one of opportunity, he added.

“I don’t think it’s anything you need to be constantly worried about it,” said Sgt. Loppnow, “but just take those steps of keeping your valuables in sight or with you. Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in this and other instances, is that you’re never quite sure who is there and their reasons for being at the shrine.”

Fountain echoed the sentiment: “We like to think that all our people are honest — but unfortunately that’s not the case. In most cases (of theft) — people don’t have to work really hard to steal from you; (often) you’ve made it too easy for them.”

Fountain recommends keeping valuables with you when you go to communion, or locking them in the trunk of your car, out of sight. Sgt. Loppnow also recommends keeping purses and camera bags close at all times.

“Always have control of your valuables,” he said.

According to Fountain, the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help has seen increasing attendance at its Masses, with about 60 to 70 people at weekday Masses and more than 200 at weekend Masses.

Anyone with information on the theft, may contact Sgt. Loppnow: (920) 448-6188. Anonymous tips can be left at (920) 432-7867.

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