Thefts and vandalism of nativity scenes can be one of those holiday downers, frustrating to church leaders and dispiriting to communities enjoying the warm mood the holiday season brings.
To help catch these holiday Grinches, BrickHouse Security has come up with a novel solution. The private security company is giving GPS tracking devices to churches that can be installed on Baby Jesus, wise men, or other figurines. The trackers can also be added to menorahs or other holiday decorations.
The trackers, which were initially offered a year ago, are available again. This year, BrickHouse is adding a twist — motion-activated video surveillance.
The company has provided three churches with a GPS tracker and the new Global Watchman remote camera surveillance system. This system captures images when it detects motion in lighted or low-light conditions, and sends them as an alert to a PC computer or cell phone.
Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church in Coronado, Calif., was one of the churches picked.
"Last year, we bolted down all of our nativity scene figures," said Phil Manion, the church deacon in charge of the nativity scene. "Despite that, Baby Jesus was stolen and other figures were damaged. The nativity scene means a lot to our congregation, not to mention being expensive to replace, and we are eager to keep it intact through the holidays."
The second church is St. Ambrose in Old Bridge, N.J., a participant in last year's program.
"We actually installed the small GPS device in the Jesus figurine," said church member Alan Czyzewski. "Fortunately, true to the Tale of the Magi, Jesus remained in the manger and out of a cross-town pursuit."
The third church is St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
"Our nativity scene was untouched last year, thanks in part to the GPS system," said George Smith, the church's rector. "We are certainly hoping that the prospect of picking up a tracking device diverts any attempts to remove the figures from the nativity scene this year."
Organizations interested in participating in this program can sign up via the BrickHouse Website.
"We are happy to be in position to come to the aid of churches, temples, and other organizations looking for a way to protect their community from this crime," said Todd Morris, BrickHouse's chief executive. "While we can't blanket every nativity scene or menorah, we hope that the potential of GPS tracking and the examples set by our three highlighted churches is enough to discourage would-be thieves and vandals from putting a damper on the holiday spirit."