Religious Leaders Work To Keep Congregations Safe

By Keith Garvin, CBS 11 News

RICHARDSON (CBSDFW.COM) – Churches, mosques and synagogues have long been the targets of crime and vandalism. Last year, thefts and burglaries cost religious organizations in the United States about $22 million. But now, these buildings have become the sites of more serious crimes.

Extreme violence has turned places of worship into crime scenes. “I think that sometimes we believe that this is something that can never happen to us, and I think for a long time we believed it would never happen in a church,” said Michel Carroll of the Fort Worth Police Department.

In 1999, Larry Ashbrook killed seven people at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth. This past March, Rev. Clint Dobson of Northpointe Baptist Church in Arlington was murdered during a robbery. This is the kind of violence that police across North Texas are trying to prevent.

“There is not one thing that is going to fit every congregation,” explained Frank Bradford of the Richardson Police Department, “but we are trying to get everyone to take a look at where you go to church, or where you worship, and see if there is anything you can do to better secure your building.”

“That all starts with awareness,” said Carroll, who investigated the Wedgewood shootings and hopes that these recent incidents serve as a wake-up call. “Awareness of members of your community. Awareness of members of your congregation. Awareness of yourself and your surroundings.”

“The next thing is to come up with steps,” Carroll continued. “It’s like we do when we practice a fire in the house. What are we going to do? What steps are we going to take?”

Emergency management coordinator Mistie Gardner explained, “That’s what really stresses someone out during an emergency. It’s not ‘Oh, something bad has happened,’ but ‘What do I do about it? How can I help?'”

“There are some things we just don’t have any control over,” Carroll said, “and I think the foundation of the church is faith. As long as you have faith, you are able to deal with anything else that happens.”

These religious establishments want to keep their doors open to everyone, but must also realize that such lax security makes them easy targets. “I think we’ve all done a few things,” said Ed Meath with First Baptist Church of Plano. “We just haven’t done enough.”

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  • chuckz

    I believe the Bible verse is “Fear not” and it is usually said by angels.

    If you see an angel, fear is natural.

    If you see a criminal, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

  • Kim Dar

    We had an incident during church last week when someone put her purse in the pew and went to greet other worshipers and when she came back her purse was gone. There was someone that had come into the church looking for someone to give them money and he had taken her purse. A police officer that is a member of the church was in that service and saw the man, called in the description and he was apprehended a short distance from the church and still had the purse. We really have to be on guard, even when we are in the one place we should be able to feel safe. Nothing and no place is sacred anymore. Sad state of affairs in our country.

    • les

      why isn’t your god protecting you ????????

      • OSO

        Well,les, since, obviously, you have not studied theodicy and its ramificaions in the real world, let me explain this in really, really simple terms that you will understand: The Triune God expects us to protect ourselves!

      • Crossroads


        Les, they will come back with it’s evil, and it’s the end of times…blah blah blah…

  • Reeper

    Your only salvation is through Jesus Christ, thus if he himself did not protect his life and gave it up for you why will you not do the same for him? If his purse was stolen would he try to get it back?
    God expects you not to set back and just ask for everything, yet the eye for an eye only applies to the Jews since it’s in the Old Testament which saw you as an infidel that God would not have anything to do with.
    Funny Christians and Jews know it is only their souls God cares about, yet they are afraid of joining him thus try at all odds to live forever? Israel today is by far taking more than an eye for an eye, thus they do not follow his laws.

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