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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Sheriff advises churches about building securitycomment (0)

January 1, 2004

By Grace Thornton


Your church building — you’ve always trusted its environment enough to leave your purse sitting in the pew, your car sitting in the parking lot overnight and your children in the hands of people you might not know so well.
Should changing times change your trust? Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale says no. But a church should consider changing its ways of protecting that trust, he added.

“Many factors contribute to a church’s security and threat level,” said Hale, a member of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham. “A committee in the church should address concerns that might put its members in danger.”

Money at church — both that found in vending machines and in tithes in the office —makes the church vulnerable to burglaries. “Churches with family life centers that reach out to the community may have $500 or more just waiting to be broken into,” Hale said.

Brian Tribble, music minister at Centercrest Baptist Church in the Birmingham suburb of Center Point, was killed in 1997 by someone who was burglarizing the vending machine. “His church was in a safe area, but at that time the hazards were there,” Hale said.

One way for the church to better avoid this type of tragedy is to install a security system, Hale said. “These systems have wonderful reputations, and they’re a great investment.”

Members can also personally lessen the danger by avoiding being at the church alone after hours. Hale’s wife, Dianna, is a church treasurer. She realized the danger of having the same person carry the tithe money out of the church week after week. “When a church routinely counts its tithes and offerings and anyone watching the church sees the same person consistently taking away the money, that invites burglars,” he said.

Varying the person in control of the money or — better yet — installing a safe to hold it until banks open on Monday greatly reduces that blatant invitation, Hale said.

The invitation, however, may not always be sent to the potential criminal in the form of money, he added.
“Location has a lot to do with it. If a church is very secluded, that raises the threat level — especially if the church is small enough that it only opens its doors on Sundays and Wednesdays,” Hale said.

Day cares and nurseries also open the door to the realm of child abduction crimes. “These things are all factors a church’s security committee — once formed — should assess when deciding the church’s threat level and vulnerability,” Hale said.

Then contact the police department and establish a relationship there, Hale said. “We can pair churches up with officers to watch out for the churches and give them valuable advice.”

John Cooper, minister of administration and education at First Baptist Church, Mount Olive, said they first reached out to their local police for help with traffic safety.

Because of a current building project, at least half of the church’s members have to cross busy Mount Olive Road from the parking lots. “It’s critical to have the officers’ help, and it gives the people a more secure feeling,” Cooper said.

“Reach out to your police officers,” Hale said. “It’s a good use of available resources.”
Never had security problems? You can never prepare too much, according to Hale. “God called us to be wise,” he said.

Hale offered thse tips to make a church building more secure:

--Ensure good locks on ex-terior doors, especially doors to rooms that house computers or electronic equipment.

--At the end of the service or workday, check the windows to make sure they are secure.

--Use a safe to store tithes until they can be taken to the bank.

--Get an alarm system.

--Form a security committee, and have members of the church take turns checking on the building when it is closed.

--Make sure facilities and parking lots are well-lighted.
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