Pros|Cons – Security in Places of Worship

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle—”Psalm 144:1 (KJV)

For decades schools, universities, and places of worship have endured depravity and violence. Although every act of violence is unfortunate, as a society we are left speechless, to the point of being dumbfounded, when these acts are directed at, or occur within, safe-havens of learning, personal growth, or peace. While the vast majority of these organizations have long accepted the need for heightened security measures, places of worship have been the slowest to react.

The Five P’s of Church Security

Prayer is fundamental; however, it is only the first part of the process. Few organizations implement the necessary Planning and Preparation required for Prevention. Each year in the U.S. violent incidents, varying in magnitude, occur at churches large and small. The only commonality these events share is a lack of denominational prejudice.

Having reached epidemic proportions, church leaders have begun to acknowledge this unfortunate reality. Responsible leaders have begun taking proactive measures to safeguard their members, visitors, volunteers, and staff. HGPS believes a place of worship, no matter the size of its congregation or its location has an enduring right to Peace.

Preparation is not Paranoia

Regardless of the choice to ignore or acknowledge this issue, church leaders, and religious organizations and groups face the growing reality of targeted violence. Whether by way of a radicalized religion, mental health issues, crime, or a purely random occurrence, the statistics speak volumes.

Within this unfortunate reality Preparation is not an act of paranoia. It’s a demonstration of devotion, and the responsibility of every leader within the faith.

To Be, or Not to Be a Victim.

Generally speaking, crime for the career criminal is nothing personal – it’s just a means to an end. Most criminals don’t want to be hurt, killed, or caught, so they look for targets of opportunity. And of those opportunities, the softer the better. The term “soft target” refers to a person, place, or asset that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable.

Without the proper planning a person or organization exists in a state of perpetual ignorance. Oblivious to the surroundings, ill-prepared, submissive, or intentionally unaware. By acknowledging potential threats and vulnerabilities an organization can greatly reduce becoming a target of crime or violence. This is a critical step towards reducing the risk of becoming a victim in the first place.

U.S. Statistics of Church Violence

Domestic Relationship Violence accounts for 17% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.
Personal Conflict accounts for 13% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.
Armed Robbery accounts for 25% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.
Gang Relations account for 10% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.
Drugs accounts for 2.5% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.
Diagnosed Mental Illness accounts for 11% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.
Religious Bias only accounts for 6% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.
Random and Other Issues account for 15.5% of Deadly Force Encounters at church.

U.S. Incidents of Church Violence

  • July 11, 2015

    St. Rita Church, Louisiana: Two brothers got into an arguement at a wedding. After one departed abruptly the other pursued him in a rage. In the process, he struck and killed 75-year-old Robert Sarpy who was trying to get into his car in the church parking lot. He was arrested for murder.

  • June 16, 2015

    St. Matthew Missionary Baptist Church, Tennessee: The music was so loud during service the St. nobody heard the gunshots outside around 8:00PM that Tuesday evening. But when the service was over they could see the bullet hole through their door. Now the church is considering security.

  • May 4, 2015

    First United Methodist Church, Nebraska: A man walked into a Monday night event high on Crystal Meth. He followed a woman he was attracted to into the woman’s restroom where he cut and kicked her in the head as he attempted to sexually assault her.

  • April 21, 2015

    First Baptist Church, Missouri: A Herion addict with confirmed mental health issues reportedly shot his brother in the head. After which, the suspect ran to the nearby church. A 3-hour standoff with Ferguson police ensued, ending with the suspects surrender.

  • March 14, 2015

    St. John Fisher Church, Delaware: While driving, a family of three encountered an enraged man who began yelling he was “going to kill them.” The family pulled into the parking lot of the Church. The man followed them into the lot and fired a gun once before speeding off.

  • January 7, 2015

    St. Andrew Ministry Center, Texas: Two construction workers working on site were approached by two men armed with a knife and a handgun. After demanding cash and cell phones, the gunman started shooting. One of the workers was struck in the arm.

U.S. Church Violence (2000 – 2015)


2000: 6 Incidents (DFE)
11%
2002: 9 Incidents (DFE)
14%
2004: 4 Incidents (DFE)
7%
2006: 27 Incidents (DFE)
30%
2008: 64 Incidents (DFE)
57%
2010: 102 Incidents (DFE)
80%
2012: 139 Incidents (DFE)
100%
2014: 176 Incidents (DFE)
135%
2015: 248 Incidents (DFE)
190%
2001: 4 Incidents (DFE)
7%
2003: 9 Incidents (DFE)
14%
2005: 10 Incidents (DFE)
15%
2007: 41 Incidents (DFE)
45%
2009: 108 Incidents (DFE)
85%
2011: 107 Incidents (DFE)
84%
2013: 132 Incidents (DFE)
95%

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