Crime prevention advice for congregations

Congregations across the Church of Scotland are being advised to consider their security measures following the theft of property from two churches in Wishaw. The items were stolen while services were being held. One of the thefts took place during remembrance commemorations.

A 29 year old man has appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court on two charges of theft. David Burns, who's from Motherwell, made no plea or declaration and was granted bail. The case has been committed for further examination and no further court dates have been set at present.

Congregations can take steps to help prevent themselves and their churches falling victim of crime.

The general designs and function of a church or place of worship makes general security trickier but a great deal can be done at a modest expense.

Modern criminals are able to take advantage of the traditional church as a building open for worship or in the case of some buildings such as Dunblane Cathedral, St Giles's Cathedral, Greyfriars Kirk, Glasgow Cathedral and other being open to visitors as well as worshippers.

Some criminals have become specialists, with good knowledge of church furnishings and their value. Others simply target church buildings seizing the opportunity to plunder unattended items.

Do not adopt the "it won't happen to us" attitude. The criminal might not come from your neighbourhood he or she might even come from the other end of the country. But instead follow these precautions and save yourselves financial expense and heartache.

  • Always remember to lock the building when not in use
  • Store away items such as laptops and other small pieces of equipment in locked cupboards or safe when not in use
  • Consider the discreet chaining to the floor and wall of any antique furniture and any other valuables. While this might not deter the specialist criminal it could act as a deterrent to the opportunist thief
  • Keep larger valuables in a locked room when not being used
  • Keep keys in a secure place away from the building
  • Securing the vestry with good quality locks and bars on the windows. All locks should conform to BS 3621, or higher specification
  • Photograph and keep a log of all property on the premises. This should be stored in a safe place away from the church. All photographs must have a ruler or 50p coin in the picture to indicate size
  • Protect vulnerable stained glass windows externally with polycarbonate sheets
  • Where possible use Smart Water technology
  • Remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police immediately

Although the number of church related crimes isrelatively low in comparison to other crimes, the effect on the churchcommunity can be devastating.