DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Some Detroit churches are stepping up security following crime that's included break-ins and muggings.
Pastor Roderick Dallas said his church, True Gospel Tabernacle on Ryan Road near 8 Mile Road in northeast Detroit, was forced to step up security efforts after someone stole $15,000 worth of audio equipment.
"It's a blatant disrespect for the House of God," Dallas told The Detroit News. "This is a very unchurched, unspiritualed generation."
Following the Feb. 5 theft, the church put up glass blocks on some windows, added secondary locks on doors and installed bullet-proof glass where the thieves entered. The church also put in video surveillance cameras and added security officers.
The added measures of security are happening at religious institutions all over the city, as ministers say they're committed to making congregants and other visitors feel safe. In some cases, churches are rescheduling their later services to daytime hours because some members are afraid to attend after sundown.
Crime has long been a problem at Detroit's churches. Years ago, several clergymen said they carried handguns due to the city's crime rate.
More recently, several church groups have met with Detroit police officials to discuss security concerns. Police, who don't separately keep track of crime at churches, say they've stepped up patrols in places where they can.
In those places where police can't be, pastors are arming themselves and taking security into their own hands.
Church security expert Chuck Chadwick plans to conduct a security-training conference for churches in June at Northridge Church in the suburb of Plymouth. Chadwick said the program will train church security officers on state gun laws and on how to respond to emergencies.
"It's a sign of our times," said Chadwick, president of the Christian Security Institute and president of the National Organization of Church Security and Safety Management. "It's really happening at churches that have a staff of less than four people."
The Rev. V. Lonnie Peek, co-pastor of Greater Christ Missionary Baptist Church on Detroit's east side, said his congregation has hired security guards and taken other steps to head off trouble. An aim is to help reassure worshippers of their safety.
"When you have services, you have to be diligent," Peek said.
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