On Sabbath morning, the head deacon arrived to open the church for the day’s services. He was dismayed to find one of the church’s main doors smashed in and glass scattered everywhere. He immediately called the police and waited for them to arrive before entering the building. He also calls the pastor to alert him of the incident. Once the building is cleared, the deacon, pastor and the police walked through the building to determine the damages and verify the items taken. It didn’t take long to realize that the break-in caused significant losses for the church. The losses included laptops, audio, video, and other equipment, with an estimated loss of $200,000.
How and why did this happen?
Are We Aiding the Burglars?First, it is important to understand that theft is usually a crime of opportunity. We don’t realize that we play a substantial part in providing these occasions just by what we do. In the previous scenario, the church leaders believed it took too much time to set up and break down the significant amount of television equipment each week. To save time, they decided to leave the gear out. Church leaders did not realize their decision would provide the opportunity for theft to happen.
Other factors such as overgrown shrubbery next to the building, insufficient outdoor lighting, no security cameras or burglar alarm add to a church or school’s vulnerability. Lack of these deterrents affords would-be thieves the opportunity to look in the windows from out of sight locations and see what was available to take. This is an open invitation for the burglars to break in and take equipment.
Unfortunately, this church did not conduct regular grounds keeping and maintenance, making them an easy and exposed target. Additionally, the burglars chose to enter through the main doors because of the thin glass and poor locking mechanism.
Preventing Theft in Your ChurchBecause crime does not happen every day at your church, it has caused many of us to become too complacent. This lax thinking affects our overall ability to safeguard our buildings, their contents, and our church members. We question the need to develop or maintain Safety Programs and Risk Control, including creating plans for theft prevention.
What could this church have done differently to prevent the theft?
- Have a Safety Officer & Safety Committee determine the overall level of risk and understand the church’s vulnerabilities.
- Develop a strategy to combat and fix these issues and weaknesses.
- Consider installing a burglar alarm and security cameras both in- and outside of the facility.
- Bring the findings to the church board to secure funding to address the needed security upgrades.
- Develop a plan to secure the sanctuary or the larger equipment, if equipment must be left out.
- Lock up smaller items and tint windows to prevent the equipment from being seen by those outside. If this is not feasible, reconsider taking equipment down and keeping it in a secure storage room each week.
- Utilize the Church Self-Inspection Form to conduct safety inspections on a routine basis.
- Develop a good maintenance plan
- This helps in maintaining and providing ample outdoor lighting to the church, entrances, and parking lots.
- Set a schedule to have a company trim trees and shrubbery.
- Have the doors inspected and maintained to make them more secure.
- Keep an updated equipment inventory list
- This would help in getting the stolen items replaced more quickly. The list can include photos of the items, serial numbers, brand, model, etc.