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Surveillance in Church: Balancing Safety and Hospitality

September 11, 2023 jill Blog
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By Keith Graves

As Christians, we are called to love and welcome all people, but we also have a responsibility to protect our congregation from harm. The Bible reminds us in Matthew 25:35-36 that we are called to extend hospitality to those in need, including strangers, and in 1 Peter 5:8, we are warned to be vigilant and protect ourselves from harm.

While our ultimate trust is in God’s protection and provision, we must also take practical measures to ensure safety. Surveillance is a key tool to watch over our congregation and create an open environment for people to receive Jesus Christ in their lives.

However, we must also balance security with hospitality, treating all people with dignity and respect, even those who may be suspicious or unknown to us.

More Than Video Surveillance

When I talk about surveillance, I’m talking about more than just video surveillance. Although video surveillance is a critical component of keeping watch over the flock, I’m also talking about old-school walking surveillance and fixed human surveillance of suspicious individuals.

There are several reasons why surveillance is important in our churches. One primary reason is the prevention of crime, as surveillance can deter and prevent criminal activity. It can also enhance safety and security by identifying potential threats and be useful for gathering evidence in the event of a crime or incident. Surveillance can also be used to monitor operations in various settings, such as the childcare area or when watching suspicious persons.

Pre-Plan Your Surveillance

Pre-surveillance is a crucial step in conducting surveillance in our churches. It involves preparing for potential risks and ensuring that all necessary equipment is ready. It also involves planning out surveillance missions for regular attendees who may have a history of concerning behavior or pose a potential risk to the congregation.

For example, if a man has just been released from jail for child exploitation but has come to Christ and wishes to attend church, it is important to plan out how to monitor him while also showing him Christ’s love and forgiveness. This may involve having a designated person or team to keep an eye on him during church services or events. It may also involve having a plan in place in case he exhibits concerning behavior, such as notifying the police or asking him to leave the premises.

Similarly, if a congregant has been threatening his wife during a messy divorce, it is important to plan out how to monitor both parties during church services or events. This may involve having separate areas of the church designated for each party or having a designated person or team to keep an eye on both parties to ensure their safety and the safety of the congregation.

In addition to planning out surveillance missions for specific individuals, pre-surveillance also involves ensuring that all necessary equipment is ready. This may include binoculars, a notepad, and video surveillance equipment. It is important to ensure that all equipment is in good working condition and that those conducting surveillance are properly trained to use it.

Fixed Surveillance

Fixed surveillance is a method of surveillance that involves one person on point (lead) at a designated position while monitoring the subject’s movements. This is particularly useful when a suspicious person enters the church, as it allows for constant supervision without causing alarm to the congregation.

In fixed surveillance, the person on point maintains a visual on the subject and what they are doing. As the subject moves out of view, the person on point can pass off the observation to a new person who calls out that they have “point.” This ensures that there is always someone monitoring the subject’s movements throughout the church.

By utilizing fixed surveillance, the security team can maintain constant supervision of the subject without following them all over the church, which could potentially cause alarm to the congregation. This method also gives the appearance of an open church, where everyone is welcome and free to move around without restriction.

During fixed surveillance, it is important to broadcast observations or lack thereof, to ensure that all team members are aware of what is happening. It is also essential to have a cover story in case someone talks to the person conducting surveillance, as this can help maintain the appearance of an open church environment.

Walking Surveillance

Walking surveillance is a method of surveillance that involves following a person who is on the move. This method is useful when fixed surveillance is not working because the person keeps moving out of view. However, following a person without being detected requires careful planning and execution to avoid causing alarm or alerting the person being surveilled.

The first 15 seconds are crucial in walking surveillance. This is the timeframe in which a person is most likely to detect someone following them. To avoid detection, it is important to keep a distance and not follow too closely. It is also crucial to keep people between the person being surveilled and the person conducting surveillance, as this can help to avoid detection.

To avoid the surveillance train, which is when multiple people are following the same person, it is important to communicate and coordinate with other team members. This can be done by broadcasting a description of the person, the direction of travel, and anyone who is with them. It is also essential to avoid dead ends and to have someone in a position to get a license plate if the person being surveilled heads towards the parking lot.

During walking surveillance, it is important to avoid acting like church security to maintain the appearance of an open environment. Observations should be broadcasted, and team members should be prepared to switch positions and take over observation if necessary.

Video Surveillance

Video surveillance is a crucial tool for monitoring activity within our church. We have a great video system that monitors just about every section of the church, which allows for effective surveillance without causing alarm to the congregation.

To coordinate surveillance of people on foot, we have a dispatcher in the video room watching monitors. This person can call out “point” and follow the person throughout the church, while those on fixed positions maintain sight of the suspicious person and can react if needed. This ensures that there is always someone monitoring the person’s movements and reduces the risk of causing alarm to the congregation.

Video surveillance is also useful for gathering evidence in the event of a crime or incident. The footage can be used to identify potential suspects and provide evidence for law enforcement. Additionally, video surveillance can be used to monitor operations in various settings, such as the childcare area, to ensure the safety and security of all members of the congregation.

In conclusion, as Christians, we have a responsibility to protect our congregation from harm while also extending hospitality to all people. Surveillance is a crucial tool to create a safe environment while balancing security with hospitality. By taking practical measures and relying on God’s sovereignty, we can ensure the safety of our church and continue to extend love and welcome to all who enter.

Keith Graves is the founder of Christian Warrior Training, a premier resource for church security teams, www.christianwarriortraining.com.

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