MORGAN TWP. — Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning along with the Vinton Baptist Church recently hosted a training session conducted by the Ohio Crime Prevention Association on church safety and security. Approximately 87 people attended the training this past Saturday, representing 20 churches and 13 law enforcement agencies from around Ohio and West Virginia.
According to Browning, there are a growing number of property crimes being committed against houses of worship — especially the theft of funds, burglary, arson and vandalism. Even more disturbing, church members and staff are no less vulnerable to occurrences of personal and physical abuse than elsewhere, the sheriff reported.
“Those intent on victimizing the vulnerable know that the forgiving culture and easy access environment of the house of worship can inadvertently foster an opportune place to strike,” Browning stated. “House of worship leaders have the responsibility to conscientiously screen candidates, set boundaries, maintain an atmosphere of ethical behavior, and sustain a safe overall environment that is a hallmark of the house of worship as a place of refuge and peace.”
The House of Worship Security Program is a one-day training and covers topics to educate members, lay, staff, and clergy persons on how to protect people and property by preventing accidents, injury and neglect; safeguarding against loss from crime and theft of funds; and protecting members and staff from abuse, liability, false claims and lawsuits.
According to Browning, protection of those entrusted to their care is a key element of a house of worship, and taking these additional, proactive steps will especially demonstrate a church’s care and concern for the members, staff, and guests in their facilities.
The class, designed for clergy, management, security teams, church staff and law enforcement, covered topics including physical security, personal security, youth safety and programs and critical incidents. This training course was designed to inform and educate those responsible for maintaining a safe environment for the people and property associated with churches, chapels, synagogues, temples, mosques, or any other place of worship, and to also assist house of worship leaders to learn how to prevent, avoid, and control various risks associated with the members, staff, guests and buildings that make up their house of worship.
“Many of the crimes mentioned in the training are preventable,” Browning commented following the program.
In 2008, there were 24,445 crimes reported at churches, synagogues and temples throughout the United States. Recent national FBI statistics further reveal that vandalism of property; burglary/breaking and entering; larceny/thefts; assault and intimidation are the primary crimes committed, costing houses of worship nearly $500 million in lost funds and insurance costs, not to mention the loss of parishioners.
Sheriff Browning further thanked both the OCPA and Vinton Baptist Church for hosting the training.
“Any church in Gallia County needing assistance with a conducting a ‘security assessment’ can contact my office at 446-1221, and a trained community service deputy will be glad to help,” Browning stated.