Churches, temples, religious schools and other religious institutions are vital to our community, yet they also face special security risks.
By their very welcoming and spiritual nature, places to worship are typically open long hours every day – and sometimes around the clock.
This open-door nature of houses of worship can make them especially vulnerable to individuals who are fueled by hate, or suffering from mental illness, and who are seeking to inflict harm. Case in point was the horrific racist terror attack in June on the church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine people dead at an evening Bible study class.
As sheriff, the safety of our community is my primary concern. I want to ensure your protection from harm in all of your daily activities, whether it is going to work, to school or to worship.
Our Churches and religious community can learn a lot from us about how they can better protect their institutions and congregations. Among items that make a difference: improving lines of sight by keeping hedges and bushes trimmed low to remove potential blind spots, ensuring outdoor lighting illuminates all entrances to the institution to discourage intruders and adding security cameras to deter potential acts of vandalism or even terrorism.
Most importantly is the concept of simply being alert: if you see something unusual, say something so it can be promptly reported to law enforcement. If anything seems out of the ordinary, make it your responsibility to share that information. Only by sharing vital pieces of information can steps be taken to avert potentially dangerous situations.
Beginning in October the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office will have available a power point program for our church community. The program will focus on “Crime Prevention Tips to help protect our Churches”.
To learn more, or to schedule a program at your place of worship, please contact the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office at 910-277-3114.
Ralph Kersey serves as sheriff of Scotland County.