When it comes to crime prevention, law enforcement professionals often reference this adage: If a property looks like a target for criminals, it is.
Churches might well take that observation to heart. Carl Chinn’s 2013 report on violence against churches and faith-based organizations shows 70 percent of the reported 132 “deadly force incidents” took place outside of the building. Chinn says the statistic reinforces the need for leaders to take measures that ensure their properties deter crime as much as possible.
Such efforts deserve devoted time, energy, planning, and commitment of resources. Some churches, especially smaller ones, will struggle to round up the money and volunteers to get things done. Still, some time spent on three specific tasks can immediately pay off:
1. Appearances matter. Chinn recommends leaders look for courses offered on crime prevention through environment design. Some are free. As the name implies, these show how to implement a variety of physical and logistical tactics that make criminals think twice about trying something. Examples of these types of courses include programs from International Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, the National Council for Crime Prevention, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
“I was called to a church last summer. They wanted me to come down to see what they could do to reduce robbery rates,” Chinn recalls. “From a block away, I could see the first problem—their landscaping was awful. The grass wasn’t mowed, and where there was no grass, it was dirt. The parking lot hadn’t been repaved in 20 years,” Chinn says. “The first thing you’ve got to do is make it look like you care for this property.”
Some simple landscaping and upkeep can go a long way, including:
- replacing cracked or broken windows;
- repainting faded walls;
- mowing lawns;
- pulling weeds;
- keeping trees and bushes trimmed;
- planting plants and flowers;
- addressing lighting. Even if the pricier overhead lighting in the church parking lot isn’t feasible, just adding motion sensor lights around the building can make a difference.
“There’s some level of prevention that can be done without throwing a lot of money at it,” Chinn says. “I understand there may be financial pressures, but if the building looks like a target, it will be a target.”
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SOURCE: Church Law & Tax