Virginia Churches Update Security Measures

Virginia Churches Update Security Measures

“An off-duty police officer in uniform,” Fr. Steve DeLeon said. "It's sad. It’s supposed to be a place of worship where everybody should feel safe, but I think we are living in different times."

Several churches in Hampton Roads, Va., are working to improve safety and security for their congregations following an increase in shootings at houses of worship.

Last year, 26 people were killed at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and earlier this year 11 people were killed in an attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Fr. Steve DeLeon of Star of the Sea Catholic Church at the Oceanfront said the synagogue shooting drove home how important security is for places of worship.

"I think that was the last straw. I said, ‘No, we have to do this. We have to do this,’" DeLeon said.

Star of the Sea now has a Virginia Beach police officer guarding the door during weekend services.

“An off-duty police officer in uniform,” DeLeon said. "It's sad. It’s supposed to be a place of worship where everybody should feel safe, but I think we are living in different times."

Star of the Sea is the first church in its diocese to add armed security but not the first in Hampton Roads, and other area churches are working on their security.

About 40 faith-based organizations attended a training Thursday hosted by Newport News Police. The training focused on what to do during an active shooter incident, crime prevention tips and how to put together a security plan.

Star of the Sea has asked Virginia Beach police to assess the layout of the sanctuary for safety and security. In addition, church doors are now locked during services.

DeLeon said the response from congregants has been positive, and that some church members who have military experience have offered their assistance.

"People I think appreciated that. In fact, they said they’d been waiting for that,” DeLeon said. "We will continue to pray that peace will reign and eventually we will stop doing this.”

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Jessica Davis is the Associate Content Editor for 1105 Media.

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