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Advice guide - Security at places of worship

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Keeping places of worship secure

We at Nottinghamshire Police recognise the impact a crime against a Minister of Religion or their place of worship has not only on them, but on the whole faith community.

The downloadable PDF guide contains a self-assessment checklist to help you improve the security of your building and the property inside it.

This page provides advice, which we hope will reduce the chances of you or your place of worship becoming a victim of crime and, at the same time, provide a much safer environment for people to meet and practise their faith or religion. It also contains a self-assessment checklist to help you improve the security of your building and the property inside it.

Please take some time to read this information and act quickly to secure your premises to reduce the likelihood of you becoming a victim of crime.

You should review the security at your place of worship using the checklist in this booklet and always contact us if you notice anything suspicious.

Crime prevention is a shared responsibility. While we are working hard to bring criminals to justice and prevent crimes from being committed, the whole community can play a part in making Nottinghamshire a safer place in which to live and worship.

Improving security

Making your place of worship safer.

The majority of burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves. They choose premises that have no obvious signs of security and where they think they will not be seen.

If they have succeeded once, they can be motivated to try again. Research shows there is an increased chance of a repeat burglary at the same premises. Some 21per cent of non-residential premises burglaries are targeted again within a matter of weeks. This is because the criminal knows the layout of the building and is confident they can access it again.

Often security will only be improved after stolen property has been replaced following a break in. Now is a good time for you to determine the risk of crime to your place of worship and we excourage all worshippers to help identify any security risks. It is in everyone’s interest to ensure the security and safety of your place of worship.

Metal theft

  • Wherever metals are present there is an increased risk of theft and existing security arrangements should be reviewed.
  • Make theft more difficult by removing any easy access to building roofs, such as water butts, waste bins and tall trees located near to the building.
  • Store ladders in a secure place. This is particularly important when building work involving scaffolding is taking place.
  • Maximise surveillance levels, including cutting back tall trees and shrubs.
  • Protect the lower sections of lightning conductor ribbons.
  • Consider the use of a lighting scheme at roof level where metal roof coverings are present.
  • Security mark metal goods. SmartWater is a security marking product that forensically links thieves to crime scenes and is being successfully used to combat the theft of metals. SmartWater can be used on property that is exposed to the elements and doesn’t damage items when it is applied to them.

Security of buildings

Clearly define the boundary of your premises. This will help you to inform visitors that they are entering private property. This can be achieved by using fencing, walls, gates, landscaping and clear signs.

  • Where possible, have one entry/exit point to minimise the opportunity for unauthorised access. This should be indicated with clear signage.
  • Ensure that the appropriate people within your place of worship are briefed on the security procedures, particularly those who may use the building when the Minister of Religion is not present.
  • Identify any features in your premises that could provide cover for intruders and remove or improve them. Examples include recessed doorways, landscaping and poorly lit areas.
  • Ensure that removing vulnerable features such as low wall or down pipes restricts access to the roof.

Doors, windows and locks security

There are a wide range of doors, windows and locks that provide additional security.

It is not possible within this advice guide to give full and comprehensive advice, however, your choice of protection for doors and windows will depend on a number of issues, including the following:

  • The location of the door/window
  • The location of the property
  • The risk relating to the loss or damage of the property
  • The use of additional security products and technology, including CCTV, intruder detection equipment and asset marking systems.

For information on door, window and lock security visit: www.securedbydesign.com for relevant standards and details of Association of Chief Police Officer (ACPO) approved security companies.

Locking up your property

Adopt a set procedure for securing your place of worship. This should include:

  • A routine check that all entrance doors, windows and skylights are locked.
  • A final building check before securing the premises to ensure that no one is hidden in the toilets or other rooms.
  • Periodic checks on all security fixtures and fittings, such as locks, catches and bolts.

Keeping keys safe and secure

  • Ensure there is a system of control for the safe storage and issuing of keys.
  • Regularly audit your stock of keys to highlight the exact location of every key and identify any that are missing.
  • If keys are missing, change the locks immediately.

Preventing theft from your place of worship

  • Valuable items such as computers or offertory boxes should be locked away in secure rooms or put in purpose-built containers when not in use.
  • Rooms containing valuable equipment or property should be kept locked and alarmed when not in use.
  • Security mark property with an ultra violet marker or other commercial marking system to identify the owner and deter thieves.
  • Ensure that any tools are securely stored away in lockable cabinets.
  • Keep cash on the premises to a minimum and keep it secure in a safe.

Keep your place of worship well lit

  • Unlit areas can provide a hiding place for thieves. It is important that you install suitable and effective lighting.
  • Ensure that there are no shaded areas on your premises.
  • Lights with a sensor that switch the lights on when movement is detected can be very effective. The better systems have a separate sensor to cover vulnerable areas.
  • Consider using low wattage lights that automatically switch on at dusk and remain on until dawn. They can also reduce lighting costs.


Install an intruder alarm. Alarms should have an automatic cut off after 20 minutes. Choose the correct alarm for you and your premises.

Ensure there is a nominated person for setting the alarm each day.

For an alarm to be fully effective it must:

  • Meet the appropriate standards.
  • Meet any conditions set by your insurer.
  • Be maintained regularly and inspected by a member of the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB).

Types of alarm

When aremote signalling alarm is activated the system automatically informs a monitoring company that can (if appropriate) notify the police. This type of alarm is the most effective available and is particularly suited for isolated premises or when you do not want to rely on others to contact the police in the event of a break in. Monitoring companies for this type of alarm usually charge a fee.

An audible only alarm activates a bell or siren to deter a burglar and to attract the attention of neighbours or passers by. Nationally, the police receive thousands of this type of alarm call every year. Only a few are genuine.

Following national guidelines, police will only attend audible alarm activations if there is an additional indication of a burglary, such as an open door or a broken window.

CCTV systems

CCTV systems can be an effective and useful tool for preventing and investigating crime.

Careful consideration must be given to the placement and management of any CCTV system.

For the system to be effective you must:

  • Clean the camera and recording equipment regularly
  • Store all recording equipment and recorded material in a locked cabinet to prevent a thief from removing evidence while on the premises
  • If using tapes, have one tape clearly identified for each day of the month. Use a tape 12 times a year only before replacing it. Replace tapes annually
  • Store a recorded tape or digital image for 31 days before recording over it
  • Tapes must be changed regularly to ensure you are recording a clear image
  • Ensure the time and date settings are correct. This will avoid confusion about when an incident occurred. It also removes the opportunity for a defendant to challenge the evidence of recordings in court
  • Display signs to warn the public that they are being recorded
  • Face the camera towards the doorway so you get a clear head and shoulders image of everybody entering and leaving the premises
  • To avoid recording a silhouette image when cameras are pointing at doorways, you should have a backlight to limit the effects of the sun shining through the doors

Most non-domestic CCTV systems must be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in order to comply with the GDPR.

In order for the CCTV system to be legal there must be clear signage stating:

  • The name of the operator
  • The purpose of the system, for example, crime prevention
  • A contact telephone number

For more information on the legal requirements for using CCTV, contact the Information Commissioner’s Office helpline on 0303 123 1113 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, or visit www.ico.org.uk

Security Marking

Security marking improves the chances of police reuniting stolen property with its lawful owner if it is stolen and later recovered.

It can also assist in criminal investigations by providing valuable evidence, which may lead to a successful prosecution.

Various methods of security marking are available and include:

  • SmartWater
  • Labels, plates and stickers
  • Postcoding
  • Engraving and chemical etching
  • Barcodes
  • Chemical trace
  • Tracking devices
  • Identification tags
  • Micro-marking
  • Online registration databases, such as www.immobilise.com
  • Serial number and warranty databases
  • Photographic databases

If you use one of these methods you should ensure that it identifies that the item belongs to you. Always mark items in a prominent position to deter potential thieves. Check the security markings on your property at least every 12 months.

Every item should have a secure and visible mark that will help us return it to you if it is stolen and later recovered.

Listed Buildings

Places of worship make a significant contribution to the heritage and life of the nation, demonstrating the finest design, workmanship and decoration of their generation, while representing the most recognisable features of our rural landscape and urban areas.

Places of worship can be included on a list compiled by the Secretary of State that identifies those buildings, which are assessed as being of special architectural or historic interest, therefore merit special protection measures.

The historic fabric and aesthetics of places of worship must be considered before any consideration is made to the installation of doors, alarms or CCTV. If additional security measures are considered, a Faculty or planning permission may be required.

Nottinghamshire Business Watch

Notts Business Watch is part of an electronic messaging system supported by Nottinghamshire Police and other public bodies across the county, called Neighbourhood Alert.

The system enables police officers and staff to keep you informed of crime alerts and appeals, local incidents and crime prevention advice which can be emailed directly to you.

Notts Business Watch is open to the whole business community, including local churches, mosques and other faith buildings. By working together with the business community, we aim to prevent crimes that are often committed against places of worship, including criminal damage and theft.

By signing up to the system, you will also have the opportunity to become part of a wider faith community and share information with each other and the police.

You will be kept informed of policing and crime issues relevant to your local area and business type. They system allows you to communicate regularly with us at the touch of a button, which we hope will reassure you that we will act on your concerns and work with you to cut crime in your area.

To register for alerts from Notts Business Watch visit www.nottsbusinesswatch.co.uk

Get more advice on preventing many crimes on our crime prevention guides page.

To speak to our Crime Prevention Unit about protecting your property and reducing your chances of becoming a victim of crime, email Nphub@nottinghamshire.pnn.police.uk

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