Safety training for churches coming to Cedar Park

Within the past two months, two places of worship in Central Texas have been the targets of hate crime.

At the request of the Texas Municipal Police Association, a faith-based company will bring its training here next week to help our local churches strengthen security.

On December 14th a vehicle crashed through the entrance of the Church of Scientology in Central Austin.

The driver, identified as Erin McMurtry, told police she did it because quote "scientology is evil and they blackmail people."

One month prior, a member of the Islamic Center of Pflugerville found piles of feces and torn up pages from a Quran in front of the mosque.

"Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them," said Pichard.

Claude Pichard's job is to convince faith-based service providers they are not exempt from violent crime-- and to help them come up with a defense plan. He is the director of Training Force USA and spoke to us by phone Thursday.

The company was first summoned to train religious groups by law enforcement in Charleston, South Carolina.  In June, police say a white gunman opened fire during a bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church killing nine people.

The requests for training have been non-stop ever since.

Pichard has found that 44 percent of churches with more than 200 attendees don't have a formal security program during worship hours.

"They're vulnerable. They're telling you every week we're going to be in this worship center from 11 a.m. to noon and you know the church is open and is accessible," said Johnson.

Noel Johnson with the Texas Municipal Police Association asked the company to come to Central Texas.

"There have been several high profile incidents in churches over the past several months. Over the last decade there have been over 500 violent encounters in churches in the United States," said Johnson.

Next Thursday a training session will be held at Johnson's place of worship--the hill country bible church in Cedar Park. Two dozen churches from across the country will be in attendance.

"What we're hoping is this will be a good opportunity for pastoral staff, church staff and le to work together to have protocol and procedures in place to best serve the need of their members, protect, the children, protect the families protect against crime in general," said Johnson.

Johnson says attend or not-- worship groups must develop a plan of action.

"I think you need to be prepared in this day and age that anything could happen anywhere, any place at any time," said Johnson.

To learn more information about the training click here:

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