Protecting Places of Worship: Security for Churches & Synagogues

By John Krumme, CPP

Today we hear talk about protecting the places where our children go to school, the places where we work, and the places we visit for entertainment, whether it’s a sports stadium or a movie theater. But what about protecting the places that we attend for worship?

Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have become a target for criminals and hate crimes, meaning that a place that many people have considered a refuge is no longer immune from violence.

That’s why it’s important for places of worship to look at all areas of vulnerability. Newer suburban churches with high-tech systems, such as audio and video equipment, are often attractive to criminals. Beyond protecting assets, such as the building and its contents, it’s critical to offer a safe space for parishioners and visitors and other users of the facility.

There are a few issues that churches must consider when implementing a security system. One is to address child safety for churches that offer religious education classes. That could mean implementing a computerized check-in / check out system to track where a child is in the building and to whom they are returned to at the end of the day.

Another area of importance is handling the money that churches collect as part of services. Churches should create a procedure for the safe handling of money, and consider having monitors or security personnel involved as funds are moved within the building.

Parking lots are an additional area for potential issues. Active surveillance of parking areas can be helpful, as well as patrols. For large parking lots with a high volume of vehicles, some churches offer a shuttle service to minimize traffic and safety issues.

Finally, some churches find it’s helpful to have people on hand to greet visitors and follow the simple practice of keeping doors locked unless the churchis in use. Adding a card access system enables the facility manager to monitor who is using the building, including outside groups that may be leasing space, and provides a record that can be used for planning purposes.

As we look around our surroundings, it’s important to remember that security has moved into many areas of our lives. It’s particularly important for the places that we visit for sanctuary and to pray also afford the same security measures as other facilities we visit on a daily basis.