A recent meeting held by Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigationattracted hundreds of leaders of local churches, temples,mosques and synagogues. The subject was security. Robert Mielish, a protective security adviser with Homeland Security, pointed out that houses of worship are soft targets for mass shooters.
He explained that when congregants are participating in a service, they are not likely to be thinking about security matters, but it’s during services that congregations are the most vulnerable.
Preventing Mass Shootings. Law enforcement at the meeting suggested that a security plan be put in place and followed. It may include creating a volunteer security team that’s on alert at every gathering. The December 2019 church shooting outside Fort Worth, Texas showed how volunteer security helped stop what could have been a horrendous situation, yet two innocent people lost their lives. The capabilities of a volunteer team canbe limited.
Hiring Trained Security Guards. Another option is hiring trained security guards to monitor events and patrol the property after hours. These guards have the necessary training to help spot would-be troublemakers. It’s their only job and what they are trained to do.
House of worship security guards have the expertise to look for “out-of-place” individuals, watching their moves and noticing anything suspicious. This is a significant advantage. A December 30, 2019 Los Angeles Times article reported results of a study, finding there are two types of worship mass shooters:
“The first aims to intimidate a specific subgroup and is motivated by ethno-religious hate, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or anti-Christian sentiments. The perpetrators of these kinds of killings tend not to be members of the congregation. They generally have grievances with the world and target a specific group of people to blame for their disappointments.
The second group is motivated by domestic issues–the church is the setting simply because a girlfriend, spouse or other family member happens to be worshiping there. These shooters tend to be in their early 20s and are more likely to leak their plans in advance.”
For an unstable person wishing to do harm, seeing uniformed guards at a house of worship may be enough to stop him from committing a crime. With security guards present, parishioners have go-to staff to report anything that is making them uncomfortable. With the U.S. having the highest number of mass killings on record in 2019, it’s not if, but when, another deranged individual attempts to do harm. The time to take precautions is now.