Today, crime affects big cities, small towns, and rural areas alike, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year. The sad truth is — religious organizations are not immune to these tragedies. Use this resource and checklist to help protect your organization against crimes like theft, arson, and embezzlement.
HOW CAN YOU STOP CRIME?
You can help stop most crimes by following the Four Ds of Crime Prevention:
DENY – entrance
DETER – attack
DELAY – entry/exit
DETECT – intrusion/theft
We’ve made every effort to provide you with the most comprehensive information so that you can have a more effective protection program. To make it easier and more convenient for you, we’ve outlined steps you can take in our handy checklist form.
MAKE IT A COMMUNITY EFFORT
Why not be a community leader in stopping crime? The more people who get involved with a crime prevention program, the more effective it will be.
You’ll find help available from local police, sheriff and fire departments, as well as state and federal government agencies. There’s free assistance from Operation Identification, Crime Stoppers, CrimeWatch, Arson Hotline and other programs, too. Ask about them at your local law enforcement agencies.
You can help organize your whole neighborhood. Get your neighbors together and initiate a program so that you’re watching out for one another.
Keep police and other emergency telephone numbers handy and accessible at all times.
Don’t hesitate to report any persons or activities that seem suspicious.
PROTECTION STARTS OUTSIDE
This is your first line of defense, where you can take away many opportunities for crime. If the exterior of your building offers enough of a deterrent, you stop crime from striking inside. Dark parking lots can leave congregation members and visitors — as well as their vehicles — susceptible to a variety of crimes.
Criminals need to work out of sight or in darkness. You can deny them that cover easily, with planning and foresight.
CRIME PREVENTION IS AN INSIDE JOB
Most burglaries and robberies — particularly those in houses of worship and schools — are crimes of convenience committed by amateurs. If you simply avoid presenting a tempting target (i.e., an open safe in an unattended office), you can prevent a large percentage of these crimes.
Thieves don’t like to work too hard — any delay increases their chance of getting caught. So make unauthorized entrances as inconvenient as possible.
You might want to arrange for a complete security audit of your facilities and practices by a local law enforcement agency or reputable security company.
Today’s congregations are more active than ever, and this leads to increased traffic through your facility during all hours of the day. That’s all the more reason to take measures to ensure your building is secure.
STASH YOUR CASH AND VALUABLES
Be especially watchful after services. Many worship centers are robbed on Sunday afternoons and evenings — that’s when robbers know there is likely to be a large amount of cash on hand from offerings. Failing to find that, the thief will often turn to easy-to-sell office equipment, sound systems, communion vessels, artwork and the like.
GUARDING AGAINST EMBEZZLEMENT
Sometimes, religious organizations have problems with theft and misappropriation of funds by their employees and volunteers. No one wants to believe that those entrusted with handling a not-for-profit’s funds would act inappropriately. However, stewardship principals should include more than how funds will be dispersed. Preventing this type of loss means avoiding situations that might tempt one to “borrow” funds.
We’d like to think that the most valuable assets of your faith community — its members — are insulated from the impact of crime. In recent years, however, we’ve seen increasing incidents of crime and violence at worship centers across the country, and hate groups have garnered national attention with their threats against religious organizations. Here are steps you can take to help reduce the risk.
CRIME IS GETTING PERSONAL
In addition to your organization’s financial information, if you collect personal information — Social Security numbers, birth dates, credit card information — from members or employees, the responsibility to protect that information is yours.
WHAT TO DO IF CRIME STRIKES
You should set up a procedure to follow in case of a crime. Post it prominently near telephones or on bulletin boards. Make sure that your staff and volunteers are familiar with it and know how to appropriately respond in the event of an emergency.
- Call the police if you notice suspicious persons or activities around your building or if you discover a crime has been committed. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DEAL WITH CRIMINALS YOURSELF. They might be armed and dangerous.
- Observe carefully. If you witness a crime, try to get a description of the suspect, including gender; height; build; color of skin, hair and eyes; age; voice or speech; scars or tattoos; and jewelry. The more complete information you can give, the better the chances of an arrest. Was the suspect armed? With a knife, revolver, automatic pistol, rifle or shotgun? In what direction did the suspect flee? On foot or in a car? Try to get the color, make and license number of a vehicle.
- If you discover vandalism or theft has occurred, make a list of all property missing or damaged. This will help not only law enforcement officials, but also insurance claims adjusters.
- Notify nearby recycling centers of stolen items that could be sold as scrap. Scrap metal yards are instructed to take the names of individuals that bring in materials.
- Don’t disturb the scene of a crime. You might be obscuring evidence such as fingerprints.
- Notify your insurance representative as soon as possible. This will help you get the fastest, fairest settlement of any losses.
Click here to view and download the Crime Proof Your Worship Center Checklist.
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