CRIME-PROOF YOU CHURCH
By: Dieter H. Nickel
THE CRIME EPIDEMIC AND YOUR CHURCH
Today, crime affects big cities, small towns, and rural areas alike. The cost of crime is thousands of lives and billions of dollars every year.
Every citizen pays the cost of crime, in the form of higher taxes and higher consumer prices.
The sad truth is, churches are not immune from this tragedy. Burglary, robbery, and even violent crimes like arson and assault strike at churches every day. For example, the National Safety Council says arson fires now strike seven churches every day in this country. And the toll is continually increasing.
HOW CAN YOU STOP CRIME?
You can help stop most crimes by following the Four D’s of Crime Prevention:
Deny – entrance
Deter – attack
Delay – entry/exit
Detect – intrusion/theft
To make it easier and more convenient for you, we’ve outlined steps you can take, in handy checklist form. We’ve made an effort to provide you with the most comprehensive information, so that you can have a more effective protection program.
See how crime-proof your church is. Take along this booklet, a pencil, and paper as you walk through your church and grounds.
MAKE IT A COMMUNITY EFFORT
Why not make your church a community leader in stopping crime? The more people who get involved with a crime prevention program, the more effective it will be.
You’ll find help available from local police, sheriff, and fire departments, as well as state and federal government agencies. There’s free assistance from Operation Identification, CrimeWatch, Arson Hotline, and other programs, too. Ask about them at your local law enforcement agencies.
You can help organize your whole neighborhood. Get your neighbors together and initiate a program so that you’re watching out for one another.
Keep police and other emergency telephone numbers handy and accessible at all times. Don’t hesitate to report any persons or activities that seem suspicious.
PROTECTION STARTS OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
This is your first line of defense, where you can take away many opportunities for crime. If the exterior of your church offers enough of a deterrent, you stop crime from striking inside.
Criminals need to work out of sight or in darkness. You can deny them that cover easily, with planning and foresight.
* Make sure the exterior of your church is well lit; security lights with automatic mercury switch timers are the best.
* Signs and exterior crosses should be unbreakable, with individual lighting.
* If you have hedges or shrubbery, keep them low and well trimmed. Don’t provide a place for criminals to hide.
* If you want fencing, install the wire mesh type. It prevents access and still provides good visibility.
*Special displays such as nativity scenes should be well lit and securely fastened to the ground.
* Protect outbuildings (toolsheds, etc.) with lighting and case-hardened padlocks. A couple of extra dollars spent on a quality lock could save thousands in theft.
* Prune large trees near your building. Branches can provide second-story access.
* Don’t leave ladders, tools, paint, or equipment outside your church. You could be providing criminals and vandals with the means to commit a crime.
CRIME PREVENTION IS AN INSIDE JOB
Most burglaries and robberies – particularly those in churches – are crimes of convenience committed by amateurs. If you simply avoid presenting a tempting target (i.e., an open safe in an unattended office), you can prevent a large percentage of these crimes.
Thieves don’t like to work too hard for their loot – any delay increases their chance of getting caught. So make unauthorized entrance as inconvenient as possible.
* Keep all doors locked when unattended.
* Protect stained glass and art windows with Lexon or Plexiglas coverings. This protects them from thieves, burglars trying to gain entry, and vandals as well. These coverings are a good idea for any ground level windows as well.
* Install deadbolt locks with 1″ throw on all outside doors (if local or state building codes permit).
* Make sure all outside doors are the solid-core type with rugged jimmy-proof frames. Hollow-core doors can be easily kicked in.
* Give sliding glass doors an extra measure of security by putting a metal bar or even a broomstick in the track.
* Install screws in the track of sliding doors to prevent burglars from lifting them off the track.
* Use interlocking hinge plates on doors. They make it hard to take a locked door off the hinges.
* Install locks on all windows. These can be keys locks or simple stops made from nails.
* Install grates over windows in high crime areas. (Check local fire codes first.)
* Bars or grates can also prevent entry through ventilation ducts, skylights, or fire escapes, but don’t forget to allow for emergency exits. Consult your fire marshal before installing.
* Keep a light on inside your church. This will deter some break-ins and allow passersby to see if one does occur.
* Install a burglar alarm. Whichever type you select, make sure it has a battery operated backup system, a fire sensor, and a test device so you can see whether or not it’s working.
* Keep interior doors (offices, closets, storage areas, etc.) locked.
* Keep track of all keys. Make certain you know who has which keys. Don’t tag them — that way, even if a their should get your keys, he has no way of knowing what locks they fit.
STASH YOUR CASH AND VALUABLES
Be especially watchful after services. Many churches are robbed on Sunday afternoons and evenings–that’s when robbers know there is likely to be a large amount of cash on hand from offerings. Failing to find that, the thief will often turn to easy-to-sell office equipment, sound systems, communion vessels, artwork, and the like.
* Use a team of two or three people to count and record offerings. It makes theft less tempting and eases the responsibility on one person, as well as making the work go faster.
* Deposit cash as soon as possible after services, using your bank’s night depository. If none is available, get a burglar-resistant safe for your church. Stamp checks “For Deposit Only.”
* Alternate routes and times when carrying cash to the bank, to prevent robberies en route. Here again a team of two or three people adds an extra measure of security.
* Inventory all your property and keep records of all serial numbers. Ask your local police about Operation Identification.
* Keep all valuables under lock and key when not in use.
* Start a sign-out sheet for things like athletic and recreational equipment. This controls property — but does not limit access.
* Inspect the whole church, including rest rooms, before locking up for the night.
* Keep announcements of pastor’s absences to a minimum. Thieves often look for these announcements in newspapers or even on church bulletin boards. They’re a tip-off that the building is likely to be unattended.
* Be wary of strangers claiming to be visiting pastors, students of architecture, or anyone who’s very curious about your building. Ask for identification – bonafide visitors will be glad to provide it.
PROTECTING CHURCH MEMBERS
It’s fortunate that the most valuable assets of your church – its members – are the easiest to protect from crime Assaults and armed robberies are relatively rare in churches.
A few simple sleps afford effective prevention.
* When working alone, or at night, follow methods outlined to prevent unauthorized entrance.
* Turn on a radio or television when working alone The “extra voices” make it hard for a robber to tell if you’re alone.
* Keep parking lots well lit at night.
* If you suspect a crime is in progress inside your church, DON’T GO IN. Call the police.
WHAT TO DO IF CRIME STRIKES
You should set up a procedure to follow in case of a crime–the same as you would for any kind of emergency. Post it prominently near telephones or on bulletin boards.
1. Call the police if you notice suspicious persons or activities around your church or if you discover a crime has been committed DON’T ATTEMPT TO DEAL WITH CRIMINALS YOURSELF. They may be armed and dangerous.
2. Observe carefully. If you should witness a crime, try to get a description of the suspect, including sex; height; build; color of skin, hair, and eyes; age; voice or speech; scars or tattoos; and jewelry. The more complete information you can give, the better the chances of an arrest,
Was the suspect armed? With a knife, revolver, automatic pistol, rifle, or shotgun? ln what direction did the suspect flee? On foot or in a car? Try to get the color, make, and license number of a vehicle, if possible.
3. If you discover vandalism or theft has occurred, make a list of all property missing or damaged. This will help not only law enforcement officials, but also insurance claims adjustors. Here is where a record of serial numbers or identification markings can prove invaluable.
4. Don’t disturb the scene of a crime. You may be obscuring evidence such as fingerprints.
5. Notify your insurance representatives as soon as possible. This will help you get the fastest, fairest settlement of any losses.
FOR ADDITIONAL CRIME PREVENTION INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Church Mutual’s Loss Control Department, The U.S. Department of Justice, the Governor’s Office in your home state, and local police, sheriff, and fire departments.
Emergency telephone numbers
Church Mutual Representative ________________________
(The above material is one of a series of pamphlets from the Church Mutual Insurance Company in Merrill, WI.)
Christian Information Network