A report released earlier this year by The Christian Security Network revealed that American worship facilities are not immune to crime. In fact, thousands of crimes are annually reported at churches across the nation. The total loss in property damage topped $24 million in 2009.
In addition to robberies and burglaries, the report found 12 homicides, 3 sexual assaults, 3 kidnappings and 98 arsons were reported on church grounds last year—a frighteningly high number of violent events at places that should be considered sanctuaries.
Securing a worship facility can often feel like an overwhelming task. Church executives may feel uncomfortable ‘locking down’ facilities normally open to the entire community. However, increased levels of crime and violence prove that churches must make security a priority for the sake of their congregations.
Unfortunately, criminals often view churches as opportune targets, and churches with larger congregations are constantly welcoming new faces—making it easier for potential criminals to go unnoticed on church grounds.
Fortunately, there are steps church officials can take to help protect their churches while still maintaining a welcoming atmosphere that lends itself to worship.
It is no longer enough to pray for a safe and secure environment. Clergy and parishioners will need to work closely with police and security providers to harden their churches against criminals. This kind of cooperation can and does help prevent violence and theft.
Church leaders and congregations have to enable all of their resources, including technology, to secure their facilities. There are a number of security solutions that can help ensure families, funds and church facilities are secure. New technology can also make it easier for church officials to communicate directly with their congregations and their local communities.
Most churches still use key locks to guard their facilities, but over time, keys can be lost, shared and copied—putting the safety of the congregation at risk. A good solution here is an electronic access control system with card keys that limits access. The cards can easily be removed from the system if lost or stolen; they can also be programmed to allow temporary or restricted access to groups using the facility.
Access control cards can be especially helpful in protecting children on church campuses. Using the cards, entrance to playgrounds and school areas can easily be restricted to badged teachers, caregivers and parents only.
Video surveillance cameras are excellent deterrents to crime and can be placed to watch parking lots, building perimeters, playgrounds and offices – especially any place where money or high-value items are kept. Recorded video can provide valuable information to share with law enforcement when a crime is committed.
Lighting should be a priority for every church facility. Well-lit facilities will discourage criminals looking for easy targets. Well maintained landscaping around the perimeter of the church eliminates potential hiding places and creates a clear line of sight into and around the church for law enforcement, emergency personnel and most importantly, members.
If an emergency situation occurs on your church campus, it is crucial that the entire congregation be familiar with the church emergency plan. There is no such thing as too much planning, practice and persistence when it comes to the safety and security of your house of worship.
Churches need to take safety and security seriously and work closely with their local law enforcement officials and security experts to put a plan into action. A great way to begin planning for safety is to request a free security risk analysis from an experienced security integrator.Leave a comment