Local pastors embrace church safety following nationwide shooting scares

Published 12:16 am Wednesday, April 18, 2018

LAPLACE — In light of the tragic shooting attacks that have occurred over the past several years in churches nationwide, many pastors have been initiating church security ministries, authorizing members of the congregation to be prepared in the case of an active shooter situation in their place of worship.

The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office, like many law enforcement agencies nationwide, recently presented a daylong training on intruder awareness and response for church personnel.

Sheriff Mike Tregre welcomes church representatives to a day-long training on intruder awareness and response for church personnel. 

Sheriff Mike Tregre hosted approximately 30 church leaders for the training held in the LaNard Robinet Multi-Purpose Room at Patrol Headquarters in LaPlace.

Major Clarence Gray coordinated the program with Barry Young, vice president of Church Security Ministries for Strategos International based in Grandview, MO, who led the training.

Recognizing all churches are at risk for crimes occurring is the first step to educating, preparing, planning, and implementing a comprehensive security and safety ministry, Young said.

“Many churches don’t think violence can happen in their church,” Young said. “They need to get past denial. It can happen in their church. It can happen anywhere. I’m here today because I want to help churches provide a safe worship environment for their followers.”

Young shared some alarming statistics recorded by Carl Chinn, a former engineer for Focus on the Family who now tracks violence in churches, with participants:

• Since 1999, over 1,700 violent church attacks have taken place nationwide.

• 2017 was the most dangerous year in the history of the American church with 261 violent church attacks.

In the history of American policing, once a church attack starts, law enforcement has no chance at stopping it without the loss of life, Young told the group.

“It’s not their (law enforcement) fault,” Young said. “The police just can’t get there in time. It’s not a skill issue … it’s a time issue.”

Young said it can take police four to nine minutes to respond to a call for help, and church leaders must have a plan from the parking lot to the pulpit to close that time window, with the hope of saving lives.

Awareness of behaviors and characteristics of an intruder or active shooter, responding to an intruder or active shooter, and lock down techniques were among the main topics.

Young also demonstrated how to subtly feel for a gun on a person and how to use a tactical pen, which is a writing tool and weapon in one, for self defense.

He showed participants simple lock down techniques they — without being armed — can initiate.

He also demonstrated how to shoot under a vehicle and talked about the direction vehicles should be parked in relation to their sanctuary.

“Unfortunately, in today’s world, … churches must be prepared to deal with dangerous incidents,” Tregre said.

“Fortunately, we have a strong partnership with our churches, … and we can work together to protect people at worship. They have to feel safe in their church.”