Communicate That Implementing Security Fits with a Church's Mission
Talking to church administrators about crime and security is different than talking to those who work at convenience stores, gas stations, schools, and businesses. Some church congregations just do not believe in security or they don't understand how "security" may be implemented in a church setting. Of the churches in the 2008 survey mentioned, 22 percent of those that did not have security indicated that they do not believe security measures belong in a church.
Much of this has to do with the theological belief that God will protect them, and the accompanying belief that taking measures to protect God's house belies a mistrust in His ability to do so. Others believe that security will cause people to be afraid and make the church less open and inviting. I would contend that any church will still be welcoming if security is implemented correctly.
Security is about making people feel safe and secure. Shouldn't a house of worship be the one place above all where people should feel this way? If you can communicate this to churches in your area, they’ll be much more likely to agree to security measures.
Realize What You Say May Be Implemented Verbatim
Most church staffs and congregations have no clue about security and respect the police highly. Therefore, whatever law enforcement officers tell them, they may take literally, which could be a problem.
For example, a church in the Midwest developed and implemented an active shooter plan, which is unusual but not unheard of. When examined, the plan basically stated that if a gunman should ever enter the church, everyone should lie down and "play dead."
Now, a congregation of 600 people dropping down and "playing dead" may not exactly be the best plan for an active shooter situation. Apparently, in the course of discussing active shooter plans with church officials, a deputy from the local sheriff's department mentioned that in some cases "playing dead" has saved people’s lives. This statement is true, but the church took it to the extreme.
So be careful what you say when recommending security measures. Qualify statements about when to take certain actions to make them more clear if necessary. In addition to being potentially dangerous, some actions could cause a church greater liability and actually affect its insurance coverage.
Develop a Relationship with the Church
Familiarizing yourself with each local church's general hours of operation and scheduled activities could help your agency better respond to crimes committed there. Yes, church risks go beyond burglaries to include violent crimes; you may think it silly that many staff members or churchgoers may not even be aware of what to do or how to deal with these risks. But on the flip side, many police officers do not understand what churches in their areas do, other than conduct Sunday worship services. It’s useful for both sides to get to know one another.
Some churches have scheduled activities going on from 6 in the morning until 10 at night almost every day of the week. Many provide daycare, which may draw hundreds of children on any given weekday. Churches today also tend to hold special events such as youth Christian "rock concerts" that attract hundreds of people. These are all things local law enforcement needs to be aware of to know how best to respond to a call of an emergency or crime in progress.
Many churches do sit idle and empty during the week, but many do not. Establishing a relationship will help your agency effectively patrol the area around a church and respond to calls there.