Friday, February 5, 2021

CEN Advisory: Protecting Churches from Rising Vandalism

Vandalism has caused untold damage to church property over the years. Several recent examples indicate a concerning rise in burglaries, arson attempts and vandalism at church sites. In the past week a Jonestown, PA church was severely vandalized and a number of artifacts stolen from the church while in Cass County, Texas a man was arrested whom police believe was responsible for six church vandalizing events. And, in Knoxville,Tennessee a church was defaced thought to be a racially motivated attack. 

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These are only a few examples of vandalism which are now plaguing the church today. Churches need to take steps to protect property from unwarranted damage:

Lighting: adequate lighting is extremely important, particularly by doorways, parking lots and behind buildings. Evildoers don’t like being exposed by the light. Adding motion detectors to exterior lighting will cut down on the electric bill while at the same time startling those looking to cause damage. The outside lighting should also be out of reach making disabling considerably more difficult. Additionally, given the church building may be vacant for significant parts of the week, timers should be installed on lights to give the appearance of activity throughout the evening.

Alarm System: install an alarm system which includes a very loud siren or alarm which will alert neighbors and those driving by. Establish a church policy when the alarm is to be set, which should be anytime the building is empty. Wise to change the alarm code every few months and keep a list of those provided the alarm code. Make sure the alarm is tested on a regular basis and if any parts of the system are not functioning, such as a door or window contacts service properly. Finally, prominently display alarm signs and decals on the property which will discourage many.

Vehicles Secured: church buses and vehicles are targets for many. If possible, keep these vehicles in a shed, out of sight and secure, or alternatively have a staff member or volunteer take the vehicles home where they are far less apt to be vandalized in a residential neighborhood. Also, discourage overnight parking which provides a tempting target for some.

Clean up: if a church is the unfortunate victim of graffiti or other defacement clean up the mess as quickly as possible, or copycats will be encouraged to continue the attack. 

Security Cameras: installing security cameras provides coverage of the outside and inside of the property. Record the camera feeds in a secure manner, preferably with cloud off-site storage so a perpetrator can’t destroy the evidence. Cameras provide both a deterrent and gather evidence to bring vandals to justice.

Valuables: should be secured like computers and valuable musical equipment in locked rooms. Most vandals or burglars breaking in are going to want to spend the least amount of time possible in the building and every barrier placed in their way will protect your key property. Close all window coverings when the church is vacant to keep prying eyes away from equipment allowing others to see the building is vacant.

Community Watch: participate, or start if necessary, a Community Watch program and connect with your neighbors and other churches in the area as community outreach. CEN’s Ready Church. training shows you how to work with other churches to become more resilient and to set up your Church Safety Security Team. This effort will strengthen the church’s role in the community. Encourage neighbors to call you as well as local law enforcement when seeing anything suspicious. Help them write down the time, and what the suspicious activity was observed. Neighbors are more inclined to call when the church is already involved with Community Watch and they may attend your church because you are a Lighthouse in your neighborhood.

The Lord taught, “But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. (Luke 12:39) in today’s darkness the church must take tangible steps to protect property from vandalism. Learn more about becoming a Ready Church.

1 comment:

  1. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an internationally recognized convention of dealing with the issue of Crime Prevention in general (Theft, vandalism, assault on property, etc...) while not compromising landscape and architecture. You don't need to make your House of Worship look like an uninviting fortress to accomplish basic Safety!