Places of worship, from cathedrals to mosques to synagogues, are an integral part of British culture. Sadly, integral doesn’t always mean respected or even tolerated; hate crime offences are steadily rising. This is a troubling thought for the millions of people who look to their places of worship not only for spiritual guidance and respite, but as community hubs – places that provide food, shelter, and safety.
Other sectors of society see them in a different light. The old image of stealing lead from the church roof is, if anything, more of a reality now than ever. Criminals often perceive places of worship as easy targets for a wide range of crimes, ranging from theft and burglary to vandalism and even arson.
Targets for crime
We undertook a study recently, surveying 2,000 people across the nation – the results of which have been included in our recent white paper, Places of Worship: Understanding Security Issues. The results were sobering. Almost two thirds of respondents – 59% – stated that their place of worship had been the target of an attack.
The types of crime varied by faith. Muslims experienced higher levels of verbal attacks than Christians, whilst churches experienced higher levels of vandalism. But all institutions reported that burglary and theft were the most common acts of crime that they’d experienced.
A sensitive approach
As a result, security for places of worship is more important than ever. Our survey found that the majority of people have ongoing concerns about security and crime at their places of worship; but the situation is not without its own complexities. It’s important that measures that provide physical security also align with the aesthetics of a place of worship.
Effective security measures can be discreet and reassuring, without making visitors feel nervous or unwelcome. Also, not every place of worship is a cathedral or a grand mosque; many are otherwise unobtrusive buildings or properties, and the presence of ill-thought-out security measures could draw attention to them unwittingly. It’s a fine line.
Different solutions for different locations
It’s a truism that no two places of worship are the same – and the optimum security measures will vary greatly from situation to situation. In many cases, the simplest measures are effective – such as removing valuable items from display or moving donation boxes away from entrances. Pre-existing environmental aspects like noisy gravel or natural barriers such as trees or bushes can also be deterrents.
For many places, physical security measures may need to be enhanced, sensitively. Whether that involves adding or improving perimeter fencing or installing measures such as CCTV or lighting will again depend on the place.
A detailed look
Our white paper, Places of Worship: Understanding Security Issues, looks at all of these situations and more in great detail. With a detailed breakdown of the types of security challenges faced – and the measures to address them – it explores every aspect of making places of worship strike the balance between feeling safe, secure, and welcoming.
To receive a free copy of the paper, sign up here.