Over the past 30 years, property crime rates in the United States have continued to drop dramatically. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the number of burglaries dropped by 11% between July 2018 and June 2019. Part of the reason for the drop is that property owners have become smarter about deterring thieves.
There are many ways house of worship leaders can increase security on their building and grounds, including using timed lights, keeping bushes trimmed and installing an alarm system. But don’t underestimate the value of simply walking around the property on a regular basis to note “red flags” or unusual occurrences. Consider walking as a team with at least one other person.
So, what should you be looking for?
Cars in the parking lot for an extended period of time.
When there are no worship services or meetings scheduled at the facility, the only cars in the parking lot should belong to staff members, volunteers or service professionals specifically called to assist with repairs. If there’s an unidentified car or a strange service vehicle, it’s time to investigate.
Signs of a suspicious package include:
- A strange odor.
- Badly written or misspelled labels, or a label addressed to “Pastor” rather than the pastor’s name.
- A missing or unfamiliar return address.
- Excessive postage.
- A strange shape.
Strangers hanging around the property.
A church should be a welcome place for all. However, anyone who spends time in or near a church building should be able to clearly state a reason for being there, such as prayer, counseling, volunteering or seeking assistance.
Trash, beer cans, debris.
These can all be indicators that people are congregating on the property at night.
During security walks, always check to make sure all lights are functioning. In some cases, a light may have just burned out. But in others, a would-be thief could have vandalized a light in hopes of paving the way for a break-in.
Doors or windows that are propped open or broken.
These can be possible points of entry for those with criminal intent.
Ladders, tools, gas cans or other flammables lying around the property.
Make sure these items are secured and stored out of sight so criminals cannot use them to access or damage the property.
Vehicles owned by the house of worship should be locked and parked in a secure, well-lit area.
More often than not, you won’t find anything wrong during your security walks. But it’s a good idea to adopt these checks as part of your regular routine so you can ensure your facility remains safe and welcoming.
The information contained in these materials is intended solely to provide general guidance on topics that may be of interest to you. While we have made reasonable efforts to present accurate and reliable information, Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions, or for any actions you take or fail to take based on these materials. The information provided may not apply to your particular facts or circumstances; therefore, you should seek professional advice prior to relying on any information that may be found in these materials.