Church-security group shuts down

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

YARMOUTH, Maine—The Christian Security Network is shutting down for lack of funding and participation by Christian organizations, according to its executive director, Jeff Hawkins.

Hawkins spearheaded the group's formation in 2008 to shed light on the need for tighter security and better emergency planning at the more than 300,000 Christian churches in the United States.

Churches lose millions of dollars each year because of crime, Hawkins writes in an email to Security Director News. "It doesn’t matter whether it is a rural, urban, or suburban church … large, small … different denominations … doesn’t matter. They are all experiencing crime."

However, surveys and polls show that more than 75 percent of churches do not have any security in place, according to Hawkins. "Plus, less than 10 percent have anyone dedicated to security functions in the church," he writes.

Hawkins, who is also manager of security management education outreach for American Military University, sent a letter to the Christian Security Network's mailing list today announcing its end. In the letter to members, he said he hoped the network would create a community of church officials and law enforcement officials who would rally behind the issue and improve the state of church security in the country. Unfortunately, Hawkins writes, "we failed."

He elaborated for SDN: "Church leaders just do not believe that there is a problem. … After every incident you hear the same thing: 'I never thought this would happen to a church.' … Unfortunately, the church is not that sacred place that it once used to be … times have changed. Churches still think they can leave their doors open and unlocked and are surprised when they become victims."

Ultimately, it was that lack of participation and buy-in from the Christian community that rendered the organization unsustainable. "At the end we realized there was very little interest in changing," he writes.

Hawkins also has resigned as chair of ASIS's Houses of Worship Security Committee, which he helped found in 2009. Rather than focusing on Christian churches, this committee focuses on the security concerns for all faith-based places of worship. Hawkins says his decision to resign as chair of the ASIS committee is related to his ending CSN, but not a reflection of the "very committed group" of members from several faiths that participated in that group.

Despite his shutting down CSN and resigning from the ASIS group, Hawkins expects to continue speaking, writing and advocating on the issue of church security, including a panel discussion at the ASIS show next month in Orlando. "Even though CSN is done, I still remain passionate about the vulnerability of the Christian church."

Comments

This article sheds light on lax attitudes on security, in general. As retired police officer, an armed private security guard and now a Security Risk Analyst, I can tell you that civilian attitudes are the same whether the badge says "police" or "security. That attitude says "officers aren't needed and are an afterthought, and even an evil necessity" until a situation arises and then the cry tends to be "where was security/the police when we need them?". I submit that a perfect antithesis to this mentality is present in certain local churches in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area. There, some churches hire off-duty police officers to partol their grounds and respond to event and other churches hire security guards, usually armed but sometime un-armed. If one can tap into the thought and decision-making process in this market, there could be a model to extrapolate and used as reasoning in other areas. Obviously that area is a high-crime city which I'm sure contributes significantly to the decision to protect, but there is still a lesson to be learned behind the actual cost-benefit analysis theses churches are making. Thank you.

Thanks for your comment, Luis. It's good to know there are areas that take security seriously. Interesting that local churches in Albuquerque are more security-conscious than in other areas. Do you say that because you're based in Albuquerque and know first hand? Or do you work in several places and have really experienced Albuquerque to be different?