JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Jacksonville Police Department and Jacksonville Onslow Chamber of Commerce held a crime prevention seminar Thursday morning for local churches in the area.
Senior Pastor Joel Churchwell of Sandy Run Missionary Baptist Church said the event was beneficial.
“What do we need to do as a church to begin to prepare and communicate a message to our parishioners, our members, that we are trying our best to make it a safe place of worship.”
That’s the same message that over 150 people heard as local law enforcement shared tips to prevent crime and increase security throughout Jacksonville’s churches.
Council member Angelia Washington said the seminar helped local congregations become more aware of their surroundings.
“Before this shooting occurred, no one ever thought about the safety of being in church, said Washington.
Everyone thought of the church as being a safe haven so it was all about crime prevention, protection, and informing the congregation and the religious communities about things that they can do in order to make their churches more safe for their parishioners.”
Churches, by their very nature, can be vulnerable. According to local law enforcement, this makes them a prime target for criminals.
City of Jacksonville Community Officer Jared Lofton said, “A lot of churches are very welcoming, they want people to come, they want to spread that word. So we have to find that fine line where they can still do that, but be weary that there is danger out there.
Be cautious, be mindful, that some of the people that you take in and try to talk to an help do have backgrounds that you may not know about. So just be weary,” Lofton continued.
Lofton also encouraged an eight point church security plan, which included risk assessment, security awareness, physical security, policy and procedures, crisis response, media response, training, and executive protection.
Churchwell said this seminar provided insight he didn’t know before.
“This seminar has been extremely beneficial, it has empowered us with some knowledge and allowed us to understand that there is some things that we probably hadn’t even thought about that we really need to look at.”
To read the entire handout given at the crime prevention seminar visit http://www.jacksonvillenc.gov.