FBI labels places of worship as 1 of the top 5 soft targets for crime

The FBI labels places of worship as one of the top five soft targets for crime. That includes everything from mass shootings on down to burglary.

That was security trainer Thomas Gillan's warning to religious leaders. He works for Training Force USA and hosted a workshop at the Hill Country Bible Church in Cedar Park. The company reports a steady increase in security threats to places of worship across the country.

Here locally, two churches have recently been targets of hate crime. In November, feces and ripped pages of a Quran were left in front of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville.

In December, a woman was arrested for ramming her car into the Church of Scientology in Central Austin.

"Churches are vulnerable. We open our doors to everyone.” says Gillan.

Over the summer the company was summoned to South Carolina by law enforcement in response to the murder of nine bible study attendees.

Gillan says recent active shooter cases have caused a mass rush for religious leaders to better arm their facilities.

The Center for Public Safety Innovation advises, ”Lock the nursery door and hide children if alerted to a violent person in the church."

But Gillan says more likely crimes include things like burglary, embezzlement and arson.

Hill Country Bible Pastor Doug James  says, "We have to constantly be aware of that. We don't let it drive us. We don't let it fear us or give us fear, because we have rest in Christ and his assurances but he calls us to be wise as serpents, but gentle as dove."

Pastor James says his church has a security team and is continuously evaluating their methods.

According to Pastor James "It goes from check in of kids to pick up of kids to uniformed officers to plain clothes officers to camera systems that we can try our very best to make this a safe environment for anyone coming through."

Gillan says however it's accomplished, it is a must for religious organizations to take action. Gillan goes on to say, "You do what you can do. If you do nothing something bad can possibly happen."

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