Earlier this year, Christian Security Network (CSN), an organization dedicated to helping churches and other Christian affiliated facilities become safer and more secure, released a report detailing crimes against Christian organizations in 2010.
The report, which was independently compiled by the organization, shows that many crimes against churches increased between 2009 and 2010. Among the crimes that saw a sharp increase in 2010 were burglary, theft and internal theft, which combined costs churches nearly $20 million in damage.
In this "At the Frontline" interview, CSN Founder and Executive Director Jeffrey Hawkins, who has more than 30 years of security and law enforcement experience, discusses church security trends and the steps that houses of worships need to take to mitigate their risks.
What are some of the biggest security threats facing churches and other Christian facilities today?
It's hard with churches because there is such a lack of information and reporting structure out there that I don't think anybody has a firm grasp on what is the most serious thing that houses of worship are facing. I'm chairman of the ASIS Houses of Worship Security Committee and this was something I founded through ASIS and it is comprised of security people from all different faiths. We're trying to answer those questions right now. What are the biggest threats that houses of worship are facing? We know that every religion has different threats, but we also feel like there are probably some commonalities between all of the different faiths in the United States. There is a much bigger question to this that nobody really has the answer to yet because no one has studied it in depth. In a lot of industries, such as retail or healthcare for example, there are organizations and studies that have been done about crimes in those particular sectors. But really for religious organizations the closest thing we have statistically to look at is the FBI hate crime statistics... and we don't feel they give an accurate portrayal of what's going on crime wise with religious organizations in the United States.
Why are crimes against churches on the rise? Are they seen as an easy mark?
Churches just by their very nature over the past 15 or 20 years have changed. They used to be just brick and mortar buildings with pews and bibles inside. Maybe someone would break in and try to steal cash donations or something else, but churches today are different. Churches today have things in them that any criminal would want such as flat screen TVs, laptop computers, and sound equipment, just all the things from a property crime standpoint that you would think of breaking into an office building or some other type of industry for. But yet churches, because they do have all of those things, they also don't have the security measures that other industries have found to be normal security procedures like always locking doors, keeping their building well lit, and having alarms or security guards. Churches don't have that because they've never had to worry about crime before. The church used to be a sacred place, it's not anymore.
According to the crime report released by CSN earlier this year, the most costly crime perpetrated against churches was from internal theft. What can churches do to mitigate their risks in these areas and is the forgiving nature of the church itself an issue when it comes to these types of crimes?