Unfortunately, church security is a growing issue. Threats range from active shooters to simple theft or vandalism. For example, in 2019, two men broke into a church in Gaithersburg, Maryland and stole a bronze crucifix. One simple measure you can take is a security camera system.
Security cameras can help your church security by identifying intruders and providing evidence that can be given to the police if needed. Here are some things to consider:
Locate Cameras Carefully
You should place cameras only in places where individuals can expect to be observed. That is, you should not put them in restrooms, locker rooms, or rooms which are routinely used for pastoral counseling. This will help ensure that your congregants are not made uncomfortable by the cameras.
However, you should make sure that your system records everyone who enters and leaves the building and the sanctuary and pay particular attention to rooms which might contain valuable items or cash.
Make sure to have an assessment done and consider places which tend to be ignored while services are in progress. If wrong-doers know that everyone is in the sanctuary, they might know exactly which storage room they can get to without being seen.
Another important place for surveillance is the parking lot. Parking lot cameras with signs will deter people from breaking into or stealing cars, knowing the owner will be in church for another thirty minutes at least.
Vehicle vandalism is another thing to think about. Cameras can also help resolve disputes if a car is damaged while somebody is at services.
Consider All Entrance Points
A common mistake is to worry about the main entrance, but don’t forget employee doors and windows which are potentially points of ingress. It’s also a good idea to monitor drop off points, especially ones used for youth activities.
Pay particular attention to entrance points that don’t lead into or close to the sanctuary, as these can be vulnerable not just after hours but during services. If your church hall has a loading dock, surveillance is particularly important there as people in the area might not realize a truck pulling up is not dropping off food.
Provide Good Remote Access
Make sure that you have solid remote access so ministry leaders can see outside and inside the building quickly if an alarm goes off. This can help determine whether an alarm was caused by an intruder or by a malfunction, weather incident, or wildlife. You can also give remote access to law enforcement, although this may not be a good idea if your congregation has a low trust in the police.
You don’t have to tell the world you have cameras, but it’s actually a good idea to do so. Thieves who see camera surveillance signs are likely to move on to easy pickings elsewhere. Troublemakers are less likely to cause further trouble if they know they are on camera.
External monitoring should be marked at the property line and internal monitoring at the building entrance. You should also let your congregation know cameras are being installed.
Know the Limitations
A video surveillance system serves two purposes. It acts as a deterrent and it helps you have a chance of identifying an intruder. A video surveillance system can’t “catch” anyone, and even a thief who has been caught on camera can still disappear without a trace.
Video surveillance should not be your only security measure, but should be combined with a good anti-theft system and other measures, such as education for your staff, to help keep your leadership, staff, and congregation safe.
Moffitt Technology designs surveillance systems specifically for houses of worship, so we are aware of the particular security and privacy needs for your church. We can help you put together the right video camera system for your building and congregation.