NY Church Implements Security Measures to Protect Children
EverPresent Church in Batavia, N.Y., has set in place a new identification system for families with young children, among other security measures, in response to a recent security incident at their campus and other incidents at houses of worship across the country.
EverPresent Church is tightening security, particularly around children at the institution, following a recent incident in which someone briefly took someone else’s child from the children’s room.
EverPresent families with young children receive a photo ID at the church now; one side shows the parents, and the other shows the children. Without the ID, parents cannot pick up their children from the children’s area of the church, according to The Daily News Online.
Security cameras keep an eye on activities within the church and nursery, and the footage is accessible via app and visible on a screen placed in the church’s balcony.
“We had security measures in place, but you don’t know a weakness until one’s exposed,” Co-pastor Jason Norton said. “This has caused us to have church meetings and talk about the way we do everything — all of our standard operating procedures.”
Two glass doors lead to hallways of Genesee Country Mall, where the church is located. Those doors had always been locked, but things have changed, Norton said.
“Now we unlock them for service so there’s another egress,” Norton said. “If we happen to have somebody (dangerous) come in the door, we can get out this way.”
“[…] this is the hour we live in,” Norton said. “People are going to synagogues, churches and anywhere a community gathers. These cowards are showing up and shooting people and doing unmentionable things that 30 years ago people wouldn’t even think about.”
An older man, who had attended a few services at EverPresent, left the main worship area on June 1 during a service. The man took a toddler from the children’s room and returned to the church service, the Daily News Online reported.
Luckily, the church’s security intervened and a children’s staffer followed the man back to the worship area. The toddler was returned to his father and the man left shortly.
The man was later charged with second-degree unlawful imprisonment and has been barred from EverPresent Church. Norton said he thinks the man may have been suffering from a moment of dementia or mental health problems, but the incident spurred Norton and other church members to take a look at their security measures.
“We took a hit, but it’s for a good cause,” he said. “It’s caused everybody to rethink how they operate.”
In addition to the new ID system and cameras, the children’s area is locked to outsiders now during times when classes are happening. The church also plans to install a transparent door leading to the outside parking lot so those inside can see who’s approaching, and additional exit doors are being installed in the church nursery.
The church security staff is undergoing a multi-day training called “Worship Security,” which includes guidelines on handling active shooters, and a select few will also undergo training that will allow them to be armed, according to Norton. The course is taught by a former Special Forces soldier who works for the Department of Homeland Security, he said.
The security staff also has radio walkie-talkies to communicate with each other.
“Being a pastor over a congregation, obviously my first thought is to help people, teach people and be there as a pastor,” Norton said. “But safety is your mind when you think of your children and the parishioners. But to this extent? No.”
“Here’s the thing,” he continued. “We already had a check-in, check-out system. But we didn’t lock the doors because we’re 40 people. Everybody knows each other. But if we want to grow to 100 or 150 or 200 people, we’ve got to start acting like it now. So let’s not think like we’re a family of 40 people. Let’s think like we’re 250. How secure can we get and how secure can we be?”