Churches ramp up security efforts

Posted at: 05/01/2013 9:13 PM
Updated at: 05/01/2013 10:14 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A handful of churches in Albuquerque have taken steps to make sure their congregations are safe.

There is nothing about the alter inside New Beginnings off Montgomery that does not look holy, but look a little closer and you will see more than God watching overhead.

During church services, someone is actually monitoring 16 surveillance cameras, where they can see everything from what is going on in the pews to even outside in the parking lot. Church personnel also utilize more than two dozen, two-way radios.

Senior Pastor Richard Mansfield told KOB Eyewitness News 4 he knows first-hand how important proper security measures, even in a church, really are.

"I've been attacked before here at our church," Mansfield said. "A guy with a knife and our security team stopped him before he got to the pulpit."

Mansfield said, there are more than 300 incidents just like that at places of worship every year all across the country.

"If there had been the security ministry team in place at St. Jude's, I think it could have been avoided before the guy ever got to the choir," Roy Dennis, a retired sheriff's deputy who owns one of the few companies in the state that trains church security teams, said.

"They've got to be trained in every aspect of what they may find," Dennis said.  "They're not a police force, they don't have arrest powers, but they can take action.  When you go to church, unless you're actively part of a security ministry, you're there to worship, you're not there as a cop, so your reaction time's a little slower."

Mixed-in with the pews during service, Mansfield said the trained security is not there as a show of force.

"They're positioned in a place where they're inconspicuous yet they're very visible," Mansfield said. "They look just like an usher, they look like a greeter, but they don't have a badge or anything that says, 'I'm security.'"

New Beginnings is an exception to the rule when it comes to church security. KOB 4 called a number of places and found the majority of churches in the metro have very little to no security at all, saying they put their trust in God to protect them.

For more information about church security training, Dennis can be contacted at (505) 934-7373.