Ron Luchene is a worship leader at Triangle Community Church (TCC) in Apex, North Carolina. His job as vice president of Tech Systems Inc. based in Duluth, Georgia, an electronic security provider, makes him a uniquely qualified worship facilities security expert. While his company provides electronic security for large commercial applications, Luchene understands the unique difference between a church and say, an office building.
“In principle, there are few differences between the way I would secure a church facility and the way I would design a system for any other commercial facility where we were concerned about potential break-ins. Churches are targets today because of the increased use of sound and video [equipment] in their services. These are valuable assets which need to be protected,” says Luchene. “What makes church security a little more unique is not when the building is emptyit's when it's full.” Today, not only are churches targets for theft, they are targeted by sex offenders who have found churches to be easy targets given children's programs that are typically manned by volunteers.
TCC has about 200+ volunteers in the children's program, and they like all churches have reason to be cautious. Whether it is the risk of a child found wandering alone, a non-custodial parent trying to pick up their child, or a sex offender seeking an easy target, churches today have to consider ways to provide layers of protection.
Luchene reports that at TCC, volunteers in children's ministry go through an application process that includes a criminal background check at a cost of about $40 per applicant. In the birth through pre-school program, when a parent drops off a child, a security tag is attached to the child's belongings and a sticker with a unique number is put on the back of the child's shirt. The parent is given a PVC card with a unique number and church logo that matches the child's stickermuch like a coat check.
Cameras as Deterrents
While TCC doesn't utilize surveillance cameras as part of its security, intruders can be deterred by the sight of a camera. “From a very basic standpoint, you would want a camera system,” maintains Tony Pelura, president of Centronics, based in Stevensville, Maryland. The firm is a distributor of audio, video, and accessory products for the security market, amongst other audio-visual categories.
Because modern systems can be monitored remotely or by security companies like ADT, Pelura believes that smaller churches, without the budgets to install $50,000 systems or to pay $20,000 for a security staff to monitor those systems, can achieve their security goals for less than $1,000. This summer, Centronics began offering a surveillance system called DSK-15.
The DSK-15 kit includes a digital video recorder (DVR), a DVR remote, four day/night waterproof cameras with brackets, cables, remote control, and a user CD. The unit is Internet-ready for remote surveillance and alarm system compatible. “When you're a smaller sized facility, you don't need cameras with facial recognition,” explains Pelura. “You just want something that is a deterrent.”
Another useful deterrent, according to Keith Fulmer, president of Video Mount Products, also based in Stevensville, Maryland, is mounting security video monitors in plain view. Usually the feeds from the security cameras run to a central location, such as a church office where church staff can monitor the cameras on a security monitor. “It's like when you walk into a store, people see themselves on a CCTV monitor, and say, Okay, obviously I'm being watched.'” Video Mount offers the LCD-1 LCD monitor mount that accommodates up to a 23-inch video monitor and has flexibility of motion, much like a human arm that can tilt and articulate. “Space is at a premium in a lot of these places so they don't want to have the monitor on a desk,” he adds. “In many cases, it will act as a very effective deterrent.”
Know Your Area
Do what is important for the area [where] you live in terms of safety and vigilance,” maintains Crawford Hitt, executive director of church security consultant Vereb, Hitt and Associates LLC based in Woodstock, Georgia.
When he is advising clients, he begins with a crime survey of the area, often found at the local police department. “If the only thing is burglary and auto break-ins, a super burglar alarm system and a couple of cameras in the parking lot should take care of that,” says Hitt. Like Luchene of Triangle Community Church, Hitt is vigilant when it comes to protecting children. “We recommend cameras in the daycare area and wherever children are associated.”