Since June, two men in Texas have burglarized multiple churches in a bold way: They visit the churches during daytime hours to steal credit cards and employees' wallets.
In one instance, they tricked a church employee by creating a distraction. Father Dean Lawrence, pastor of the targeted church, said one of the men walked through the front door inquiring about child care, while the other came through one of the side doors asking about work. Using the diversion, one of the men took the employee's wallet out of her purse.
"We probably should be more diligent about making sure things are under lock and key," Lawrence told Click2Houston.com.
These burglaries serve as a good reminder for churches to secure their buildings. While it may prove difficult to stop someone with dishonest intentions from walking into your church building during the day, there are steps your church can take to protect the building and your employees throughout the week. Below are eight tips from ChurchSafety.com that can help you control access to your property and deter criminals.
- Use vegetation. One way some churches protect their property is through vegetation. Is there visible, easy access to your roof? Plant a thorny plant or vines on that side of the building to keep people from wanting to climb up that way.
- Lock all doors. Many churches have an open-door policy during the week. Besides the front door, make sure all other doors around the building are locked. This allows the office worker to see everyone who comes and goes through the doors.
- Keep track of your keys. Many churches give out multiple keys. If this is the case, keep a record of everyone holding a key in your organization; place an identifying serial number on keys to track which person has which key; never hide a key outside your building; and change the locks periodically and issue new keys.
- Use lighting. Lighting is one of the most inexpensive ways to boost security around your building. Criminals do not like being seen and sufficient lighting in the right places makes criminals feel uneasy. Install protective lighting around locations that someone might use to enter the facilities, such as doors, windows, or skylights. The parking lot and street entrances into the parking lot should also have good illumination.
- Create a secure space for the administrative assistant. Create a physical barrier between the reception space used to greet visitors and the administrator. For example, the administrator may be in a locked office that has a sliding window that opens up to the reception area. Or the office may have a counter that separates the administrator from people in the office. Some churches install a "Dutch door" in the administrator's office. The bottom half of the door remains locked while the top half is open. The administrator should be seated in a location that enables a natural surveillance of who is outside the office, or who is entering the office.
- Consider a security guard. Is your church located in a high-crime area? Consider the value of adding a security guard. If you can't afford a security guard, consider asking an active or retired police officer or other capable congregant who attends your church to volunteer time during high traffic hours at the church, like on Sunday mornings or special services throughout the week.
- Install a surveillance system. Installing a security alarm and several surveillance cameras around your property can substantially reduce the likelihood of being burglarized.
- Get the community involved. Start a Neighborhood Watch program. Contact your local law enforcement agency for more information.
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