CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - A group of bold thieves has struck again, stealing thousands of dollars in gold from a second metro Atlanta Hindu temple.
Just a day after thousands of dollars in jewelry was stolen from a Hindu temple in Cumming, thieves hit another temple in Riverdale.
Cameras in both places caught what police believe is the same group of thieves in the act.
Channel 2's Aaron Diamant is at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Riverdale, where ceremonial jewelry was taken off two statues of Hindu deities Friday afternoon.
Look at this picture closely. They’re part of a crew suspected of ripping thousands of dollars in gold jewelry from two local Hindu temples in 48 hours. The urgent plea from temple leaders...at 11. #NightBeat @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/EpittQVqlx— Aaron Diamant (@AaronDiamantWSB) May 19, 2019
On Thursday, around $15,000 worth of jewelry was taken in a similar theft from the Sri Maha Lakshmi Temple of Atlanta in Cumming.
Channel 2's Justin Wilfon first showed you video of a group of robbers distracting the priests while others stole the jewelry. Police said they pretended to be tourists.
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Diamant spoke to leaders at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta, who said they have great security, and yet the robberies still happened there as well.
Temple president Sheela Lingham described the theft in her sanctuary as "bold."
"It was kind of brave and well-planned," Lingham said. “It’s very upsetting, and then we cannot believe it because we have 24-hour security.”
The temple's surveillance cameras captured images of the crew snatching thousands of dollars worth of ceremonial gold chains and pendants from sanctuary statues.
Sairaam Surpapaneni, treasurer at one temple, said the thieves knew exactly when to hit and how to distract the priests.
“They waited for an opportunity for a specific time that nobody is there at the temple and then they took the opportunity.”
The back-to-back robberies have Lingham sounding the alarm across the Hindu community.
“It looks like they're definitely targeting Hindu temples, that’s why we wanted to warn we are trying to catch…call other temples and tell them to warn," Lingham said.
Both temples' leaders hope putting these surveillance pictures out there will help catch the thieves. In the meantime, they are stepping up security.
"We have to be cautious," Surapeneni said. "We will take all the precautions short-term and long-term, going forward.
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