Atlanta Churches are more at risk than ever. Houses of Worship are a perfect target for criminals as they are full of unsuspecting and unarmed worshipers who welcome everyone without question. They are often dressed in their best clothes with their best jewelry and furs. Worshipers also often drive their best vehicles filled with electronics to fill the parking lots. Churches are not safe havens anymore as they are not sacred to the criminal or the mentally disturbed, nor do they fear “judgment.”
Steps to Reduce Crime in Houses of Worship
1. Stop denying that crime occurs regularly in houses of worship
2. Take ownership of your facility
3. Recognize that there are specific things you can do to prevent crime in the church
We can learn from our ancestors in Biblical times by developing a “Nehemiah’s Team.” When the Israelites were building and rebuilding temples they watched for attacks and responded quickly. These attacks were not just military, but also criminal, often in the form of marauding nomads seizing hostages as slaves or stealing food and water. When Nehemiah was rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem his enemies conspired against him. He responded appropriately by “setting a watch.” The members of the team should be well trained in how to respond to a variety of threats.
The church face threats ranging from the homeless panhandler, to the emotionally disturbed who may disrupt activities or attempt injury to others, to the thief who sees an opportunity for major theft, the arsonist, the rapist or the pedophile. Planning and preparation are essential to maintain a secure and safe worship environment while still maintaining an open appearance.