Faith leaders, law enforcement reevaulate security at houses of worship

Law enforcement and church officials in the Houston area want to take a closer look at security following the Sutherland Springs massacre.

HOUSTON - Churches around the Houston area are taking a hard look at their own security plans after the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history happened Sunday just outside of San Antonio.

Now local law enforcement officials are offering to help houses of worship come up with a game plan to fight back against active shooters.

After learning about the unthinkable had occurred in a church in Sutherland Springs, Deacon Maurice Carr’s Sunday morning focus at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church shifted from the scripture to security.

“Even though church was going on at the time, in the back office we were scrambling to make sure we had everything in place,” said Carr, who is also the Church Business Administrator. “We were talking in the security room about how we look and what if that was us.”

Carr’s church, like others nearby in Southeast Houston, does not allow worshippers to carry weapons inside the church. He says for now, they aren’t planning to change that rule.

“I think right now we just keep everything the same,” said Carr. “We had a cursory review yesterday. Things look pretty good.”

Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church has armed guards, both uniformed and plainclothes, to protect the roughly 5,000 total people that attend its four Sunday services.

While law enforcement officers and security guards are a standard sight at many larger churches and synagogues, many smaller houses of worship can’t afford them.

“I don’t think anything could have truly stopped this (mass shooting in Sutherland Springs) from happening,” said Constable Alan Rosen of Harris County Precinct One. “I do believe there are things that could be done that potentially may have saved lives.”

Constable Alan Rosen believes the key is having a plan. He’s asking local pastors, clergy, and leaders of all faiths to meet with him on Wednesday to come up with a plan together.

“Help us game it,” said Constable Rosen. “We’ll come in and train with you where we actually do active scenarios to help game out situations so that you’re real proficient in it.”

Constable Rosen says that plan could include having trained staff at the church carrying weapons, including concealed handguns.

Due to limited space, Constable Rosen says only one leader or an appointed designee from each house of faith may attend the Wednesday meeting. It’ll take place at 6 p.m. at 1302 Preston, 4th floor. wanting to attend can RSVP by calling Erica Davis at 832-286-3876 or emailing Erica.Davis@cn1.hctx.net.

On Sunday, Constable Rowdy Hayden of Montgomery County Precinct 4 used Facebook to announce a plan his office will develop in the coming months called #PraySafe that “will teach many aspects, including armed and unarmed members of the congregation, active shooter within your church, as well as a comprehensive commercial building security inspection and much more.”

On Monday afternoon, the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office tweeted out: “In light of the tragic event in Sutherland Springs, churches in our area can call us to schedule security/safety evaluations at 281-238-1536”.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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