ATLANTA - A local pastor says the theft of a van his church uses to shuttle children was caught on surveillance video and the thieves may be youths he has tried to help.
"When I came outside, if you look here at this empty spot, that's where the van was at," said Tim Downs with the Atlanta Hope Center.
Cameras positioned all over the church property caught the thieves in the act.
"How can you steal a church van?" Downs asked.
Surveillance cameras captured four males walking to one of his church vans parked at the property on Perkerson Road in southwest Atlanta and then driving off with it early Sunday.
The van was to have been just a few hours later used to pick up children and bring them to church services.
"Our biggest problem was just not being able to pick up the kids because the van was gone," Downs told Channel 2’s Carl Willis. "Possibly 45 kids were not able to come to church on Sunday."
On top of that, Downs told Willis he spoke with possible witnesses who said the people who stole the van may have been teens he's tried to help.
"They're saying the kids who did it were the kids I just bought a lawnmower for the day before yesterday," Downs said Monday.
Downs told Willis that his ministry provides food and courses to improve quality of life for the community.
Despite this setback, he says he will not be discouraged.
"We're trying to help these kids get off the streets, help them do something positive and then they stole our van, but we're not quitting," Downs said.