Story from Dec. 7, 2009:
Last month, in East Point, Georgia, the First Mallalieu United Methodist Church caught on fire. No one was hurt in the fire and the church didn’t burn to the ground but it did receive some damage. According to investigators from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the East Point police and fire departments and the Georgia Fire Safety Commissioner’s office, the fire was an arson, set by an unknown man.
“We found evidence of accelerant both inside and outside the church. The person broke out two window panes to the sanctuary,” said John Oxendine who oversees the Georgia state fire marshal’s office.
But something else led authorities to seek the man responsible: security cameras. The church’s surveillance system caught video of a man dressed in glasses and a black jacket, carrying what looked to be a gas can on church grounds. Authorities have released still photos of the man to the media, in hopes that someone will identify him and an arrest can be made. The Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the man.
This just proves that security is important in all public places. While most people may not think of a church as a place that needs security cameras, any public place where large crowds gather can be a target of crime. And as with any place, there are important things to remember when you set up your church security cameras.
You’ll want to map out your church and figure out where, both inside and outside your building, you’d like to monitor. Entrances and exits are important because anyone who comes along to vandalize your building or harm your members is going to have to enter and exit somewhere. Placing cameras pointed at doors so they can get a good look at the faces of each person who enters the building is a safe practice for any business.
Does your church have a daycare center or nursery that needs to be monitored at all times? Maybe you have an outdoors area such as a playground or athletic field. Keeping children safe should be a top priority. Parents trust that when they live their children with a church, they will receive only the best care.
Outdoor areas can also be big attractions for vandals. Vandalism is on the rise with many churches. Often times, it is the result of religious hostility from people who do not agree with that particular church’s faith. For example, at a Christian church near Peoria Illinois (a historic building, dating back to 1845), vandals spray painted an entire wall with satanic symbols.
There are other ways to keep your church safe. Be friendly with church neighbors so that they might keep an eye out for your property when it’s empty. Make sure you know local law enforcement and stay in touch with them. Also make sure law enforcement is called immediately in the case you do have a problem on your hands. And of course, make sure your surveillance cameras are properly placed, up-to-date, and working properly.
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