VILLAGES and rural dwellers in the Castlederg area have decided to come together to fight rural crime which has plagued their area in recent weeks.
The latest robbery from St Patrick's Church in Castlederg on Sunday evening sparked outrage and horror – but it is just the latest in a series of criminal acts happening on a regular basis.
These thefts, burglaries and assaults have forced people in the countryside to examine the setting up of new Neighbourhood Watch schemes as a matter of urgency.
One such meeting for the Aghyaran-Killeter area took place on Monday night with locals coming together to organise protection for their townlands.
Local councillor and deputy mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Derek Hussey, has urged people to stay vigilant and report suspicious incidents as they occur - but not to put themselves at risk.
He also warned people to be aware of being offered goods from sources other than the legitimate ones saying their 'under the counter or internet bargains' might have been stolen from their neighbour.
Organised criminal gangs behind a growing wave of countryside crime in Castlederg and border areas recently has also meant a sharp rise in fear and distress.
Cllr Hussey has said part of the problem may be due to the police forces being overstretched and part down to easy escape routes across the border for the culprits.
The latest incident occurred on Sunday night in Castlederg itself when thieves broke into St Patrick's Church, stole a small amount of cash and caused damage. The theft and damage was discovered shortly before 6pm on Sunday by a church volunteer who arrived to lock up the Castlefin Road building and witnessed the two suspects as they made off.
Parish priest, Rev Colm O'Doherty, said the local congregation was "deeply shocked and saddened" by what had happened. It was the first time in his memory that this had happened.
"This was a deliberate act by these two men to rob our chapel, but we have the whole thing on CCTV which we have handed over to the police," Fr O'Doherty said.
Full story in this week's Tyrone Constitution...