Historically, churches have been a place of sanctuary. Though part of English law up until the 17th century, sanctuary use of a church for individuals under risk of prosecution or persecution is only honored today out of respect. Furthermore, there has been a general decline in respect for churches overall. This site reports that Dallas Drake, a criminologist, reported that 10 percent of violent attacks against churches are caused by individuals with mental illness. Drake went on to point out that churches, due to regular schedules, insufficient security and being open to the public make them “convenient venues” for violent crimes. However, there are ways to minimize the risk of violent and other crimes at churches.
Develop a Security Team
Establishing a security team for a church should begin with a plan that is reviewed by the church’s attorney and insurance company. Hiring specially trained security officers employed by a security agency would be ideal, but most churches lack the budget to contract this type of service. Nationwide, churches are recruiting security team members from within their own congregations. Members with law enforcement, military, and medical training are at the top of the list for volunteer recruitment. Medically trained security personnel are a priority as it is far more likely for a church to have a medical emergency than an active shooter situation.
The choice to have security (armed???) comes with its own long list of issues and questions that need resolved and answered before implementation, especially the consideration of local and state laws concerning armed security personnel. Unless a church happens to have a several trained law enforcement personnel who are required to be armed when off duty and who desire to be on the church’s security team, it may be more prudent to establish an unarmed church security team.
Having the ability to stop someone at the door from being able to force entry is an asset. Glass door panels can be replaced with Lexan or other shatterproof polycarbonate materials that can delay entry even from an actor who is armed. Automatically locking doors that can be opened from the inside but not the outside allow continuation of evacuation protocols to not be hindered but lessen the sources of ingress an actor can use during service times. A safe room inside the church for clergy and staff to retreat to during weekly business hours is beneficial as well. Delaying an aggressor’s access to targets allows trained law enforcement time to arrive and handle any developing situation.
Install a Security System
A primary help in reducing risk in churches for everything from burglary to active shooter situations is installing a security system to give early warning of any problems. A modern security system can allow the church to be open for public access during service times and still control access to non-public or closed areas. Alarm systems can notify of any window or door being opened. Large areas can be protected by motion detectors. A security system can prevent individuals from lying in wait to attack or commit another crime.
Modern surveillance cameras allow monitoring of people and vehicles. License plates and faces can clearly be seen, even in the dark, using today’s powerful video-surveillance cameras. Pan, tilt and zoom cameras can follow a person or car to allow remote observing at unprecedented levels. The early warning that today’s security cameras can give churches, and the level of deterrent that security cameras generally provide, makes them worth investing in. Plus, modern security cameras can record footage around the clock every day of the year with footage being able to be indefinitely stored. This can drastically reduce liability issues for unfounded accusations as video evidence of strategically placed cameras can be played back at any time.
Modern threats should be met with equally modern technology and methods to protect against those threats. Churches are not immune to crimes of any kind whether perpetrated by outsiders or parishioners. Pretending risk does not exist does not make it go away. It just leaves one unprepared to deal with situations if they come. Also, security protection at your church does not have to be visible to be effective. The most traditional church that prefers to not have elements of high-tech gadgetry evident in its architecture can still be blanketed with the protection that modern security teams, fortifications, and security systems can provide. It just takes a bit of ingenuity for installation and implementation. This makes picking your security system installation company a paramount consideration.