Begging gangs in Lausanne are operating with increasing audacity and focusing evermore tightly on exploiting soft targets. “We’re used to having beggars pushing for money at the church door and even coming into the church hall to steal money, hats and coats.” A Swiss member of the congregation told Le News. “This episode, however, was on an entirely different level.”
Last Sunday, the Scots Kirk, a Presbyterian, English speaking church in central Lausanne, was the target for a criminal gang who attempted to carry out a well-planned robbery. One thief, clearly a beggar, stood in front of the church creating a diversion while the other three – presentable young female accomplices – entered the church posing as “charity collectors” who wished to pray in the church. Making their way through the church to the vestry, they created a disturbance while one of them cleaned out the bag containing the week’s collection and another pilfered over CHF 100 from a handbag left on a pew while its owner was tidying up the pews. It was only due to the diligence of the treasurer that the theft of the collection (a substantial sum) was noticed. On apprehending and accusing the three women of theft, the money suddenly reappeared on a table. With the money recovered, the thieves were then permitted to leave.
- Burglary season starts now. Why break-ins rise dramatically in winter (Le News – 28.10.15)
- Growing crowds at Lausanne soup kitchen (Le News – 23.07.15)
“We immediately called the police and they arrived in an impressive five minutes. The police were clear that those of us who apprehended the thieves did exactly the right thing in letting them go as the villains could complain of abuse such as kidnapping and it would be their word against ours since there was no evidence of theft as they did not have the money anymore,” explained church member, Jeremy McTeague.
“After taking statements from four witnesses, the police strongly advised that the congregation should never give beggars stationed outside the church money or let them enter church premises,” said a Scottish church member. “It’s difficult as a Christian to harden one’s heart against people claiming to be in dire straits but we really don’t have any choice but to accept police advice and recognise that these people are professional scammers and thieves rather than genuinely needy. We have already introduced measures to improve security. Regrettably all churches throughout the region are also going to have to take increased precautions.”
Le News understands that several other churches in the region have been the target by professional beggars and criminals in recent months. If you have a view on this issue get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.