Securing your church, chapel or meeting house against crime or antisocial behaviour is very important, but does not have to mean bolting the doors and turning it into Fort Knox. There is lots of advice available to help you secure your church, whilst still keeping an open door to local people and visitors.
Day to day
There are basic steps you should take to help keep your church safe and secure.
Ecclesiastical Insurance suggests you should always:
- lock your church after dark - unless there is a service or more than one person
- keep keys safe - in a secure place away from the church and keep a list of keyholders
- protect high-value items - chain items to the floor or wall or replace items with cheaper alternatives for display
- lock away valuables/money - keep money, silver, brass and pewter items in a safe or secure area
- keep and monitor all receipts for deposits - investigate any discrepancies immediately
- divide responsibility for money - appoint different officials for collecting, counting and banking
The Church of England has produced a very clear guidance note, helping you to walk around your church from the entrance to the churchyard, and giving you practical things you can do to make the church and site secure while still leaving it open to visitors, worshippers and other users.
Church of England: security
Ecclesiastical has published guidance on: automatic door locks
By far your biggest asset in keeping your church safe and secure are the many eyes and ears of your community.
If you can encourage them to be alert to the church, have a look at what might be happening there when they go past or even pop inside on as they do then they will not only be able to make you aware of anything untoward, but also prevent potential problems by making the church used and busy.
We encourage all churches to be open during daylight hours so that they can continue to be a dedicated space for public worship and a focus for events and community activities. There is no impact on the church insurance premiums if a church is open during daylight hours and proper risk assessments have been completed.Ecclesiastical Insurance
If you want to open your church more the first thing you should do is take a good look at your current arrangements, and try and understand why they are in place. They may have arisen from a one off incident, or through lack of knowledge about the actual likelihood of risk. They may have been in place for years, and be genuinely believed to be the only way (sometimes because of the misplaced conception that it is required by insurance).
The best thing that you can do is start the discussion. Gather together all the data you can and perhaps even get your local insurance representative to visit the church and talk to your management committee or volunteers and dispel any fears. Work together to create a plan which is agreeable to all parties, and stick to it. And, very importantly… keep a record of visitors, to help you show those who weren’t sure just how many people do use the building for genuine reasons once you have opened it to them.
Ecclesiastical Insurance: open churches
If your building is listed and has been the victim of crime, including metal theft, it is important to emphasise the loss or damage to heritage caused, in addition to simply the value of the theft or the cost of repair.
The Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH) is a partnership between English Heritage, the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. It is a new voluntary national network that will be used to take forward a range of initiatives and galvanise local action against heritage crime.
Historic England: heritage crime
Church of England: heritage crime impact statement
National Churches Trust: metal theft