Jacksons Fencing’s latest research has uncovered the experiences and concerns of the UK’s faith communities when it comes to criminality. Six-in-ten people of the 2,000 individuals surveyed believe their place of worship has been a target of crime, while it appears that almost half of all places of worship are targeted on a monthly basis and upwards of one-in-ten are targeted daily.
The company has released various insights into security at religious venues contained in its White Paper entitled ‘Places of Worship: Understanding Security Issues’. The findings highlight the most pressing safety concerns of the UK’s faith communities, centred on from physical and verbal harassment through to theft, burglary and vandalism.
More than half (54%, in fact) of those people surveyed agree that lots of physical security makes them feel nervous, while the majority (76%) feel safer with a certain amount of security measures in place.
Crime perpetrated at religious venues is far too frequent, with three-quarters (74%) of respondents saying their place of worship is a target of crime at least on a yearly basis. Compared to five years ago, the situation hasn’t improved. Most people (81%) report that the amount of crime on-site has either remained the same or increased.
Despite the frequency of incidences, places of worship play an increasingly vital role in society, with 44% of worshipers saying they are more a place of asylum and safety than they used to be.
Three-quarters of respondents remain concerned about security threats, the most worrying of these being vandalism (18%), burglary, theft and robbery (17%) and personal physical attacks (17%). Of those concerned about vandalism, these individuals are most worried about broken windows (52%), damage to the building’s exterior (46%) and graffiti (45%).
With only 13% of people saying they feel secure enough at their place of worship, there is clearly much work to be done. However, while three-quarters (76%) feel safer with security measures in place, there’s a fine line to be drawn. As stated, 54% say lots of physical security makes them feel nervous.
Popular security measures taken by religious bodies include more tightly controlled access (38%), moving donation boxes to more secure areas (37%), removing valuables from display (30%) and increasing physical security measures (25%).
Moving forward, people would feel safer with CCTV (42%), alarm systems (31%), gates (27%), better lighting (24%) and the installation of security fencing (23%).
Detect, defend, deter
Peter Jackson, managing director at Jacksons Fencing, commented: “Places of worship need to be both safe and welcoming. Security has to make worshipers feel safe, provide solace and not deter those requiring support. With so many religious buildings of all faiths being regularly targeted by criminals, the security measures implemented should not only detect and defend against attacks, but they should also deter potential criminals or intruders from making an attempt at crime in the first instance.”
Michael Brooke, head of operational services for Police Crime Prevention Initiatives, advised: “A sensible and practical level of security, which will not adversely affect the efficient running of the place of worship, is essential. The majority of burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves who choose premises that have no obvious signs of security and where they think they will not be seen.”
Brooke added: “Having someone in place who meets and greets visitors is a great preventative measure. In particular, having someone there who knows the congregation enables strangers to be identified such that they can be either welcomed or turned away. It’s also useful to remove and lock valuables away during times outside of services.”