Unfortunately, crime against faith-based institutions is an issue that affects organizations across the nation. Last December, a group of thieves broke into seven churches outside of St. Louis and stole about $20,000 worth of items.

In addition to the physical assets housed within them, faith-based institutions are also community-gathering centers. Volunteers are often relied on for successful worship—helping with transportation, event organization and even facility cleaning.

Whether it’s to prevent theft or violence, religious institutions must take appropriate security measures to protect their congregations, volunteers and assets. Here’s how.

1. Install a Video Surveillance System

Enhanced visibility of your faith-based institution improves your organization’s safety. Video surveillance systems with 24/7 monitoring capabilities, remote mobile control and real-time alerts allow you to uncover suspicious activity proactively.  

But, keep in mind all worship-based institutions have their own unique practices. Consider camera placement before installation to maximize your system’s potential and avoid legal concerns associated with privacy. Post signs in areas you are recording, and don’t install cameras in bathrooms, confessionals or other areas of expected privacy.

2. Restrict Access to Certain Areas

Criminals see faith-based institutions as easy targets because of their isolated staff and empty hours, and valuable relics, artwork and money collected during services.

Ideally, these organizations would like to be available as much as possible, but theft is an unfortunate reality. To secure religious valuables and protect volunteers, consider an access control system. These systems restrict access to certain areas and provide data logs of everyone that enters and exits secured rooms. Set a unique passcode, and only provide it to trusted members of your institution.

3. Light Outside Areas

Some faith-based services end at night. The darkness can provide a cover for thieves or intruders, waiting to harm your institution or visitors. Install lights around your building’s exterior (walkways, parking lots, entrances and exits) to deter crime. This can be very beneficial for volunteers or staff who stay late to clean up after an event or who are frequenting very late in the evening.

4. Implement Safety Alarms

Many faith-based institutions light candles or incense during services—both of which can pose serious threats if left unattended. In the event of a fire or carbon monoxide leak, a 24/7 monitored alarm will immediately alert volunteers, congregation members and proper authorities, minimizing damage potential.