- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

BALTIMORE — The Rev. Loretta Ewell-Johnson stood inside St. Paul United Methodist Church this week, sighed in exasperation and pointed to a square hole in the wall. There used to be a stained-glass window there. Now, only plywood remains.
Thieves had hit the abandoned, brownstone church again. This summer, 16 stained-glass windows — some containing dedications to parishioners — have been stolen from St. Paul, with the latest discovered Wednesday.
"It's just amazing that they would come into the church and steal windows that have been part of the church since 1913," Mrs. Ewell-Johnson said.
A cross and a crystal bowl used during services also have been stolen.
Police blame drug addicts living in the church's blighted southeast neighborhood for selling the stained-glass windows to local antique and secondhand shops to make a quick buck for their habit. Stealing stained glass to buy drugs is not new in a city with the highest per-capita heroin-addiction rate in the country. Baltimore's row houses, where stained glass dates to the early 20th century, have been losing them for years.
But stealing stained glass from churches is relatively new. Parishes in Rochester, N.Y., and Pontiac, Mich., were victimized last year.
Baltimore police consultant William Hilseberg said the stained glass in churches is more expensive than that in homes because the designs typically incorporate religious figures rather than geometric patterns.
Thieves sell stained-glass windows like the ones at St. Paul, valued at about $300 apiece, to stores for about $50.
The stores, in turn, can sell them for up to $500 to builders, collectors and homeowners who are remodeling.


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