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UK News

New research: 87% of Brits feel unsafe at their place of worship

by Tola Mbakwe

New research into the concerns of the UK's faith communities has found 59 per cent of people said their place of worship has been targeted in an attack. 

The findings highlight the most pressing safety concerns from physical and verbal harassment, to theft, burglary, and vandalism.

Out of 2,000 people surveyed, the study by security specialist Jacksons Fencing found three-quarters of respondents remain concerned about security threats, with the most worrying being vandalism.

Forty-two per-cent said their place of worship is targeted at least monthly, and more than 13 per cent said daily.

Peter Jackson from Jacksons Fencing MD said: "Places of worship need to be both safe and welcoming. Security has to make worshipers feel safe, provide solace and not deter those requiring support."

"With so many religious buildings of all faiths being regularly targeted, security measures taken should not only detect and defend against attacks, they should deter potential criminals or intruders from making an attempt."

The research revealed only 13 per cent of people said they feel secure enough at their place of worship. However, while 76 per cent feel safer with security measures in place, there's a fine line to be drawn as 54 per cent said lots of physical security makes them feel nervous.

Popular security measures taken by religious bodies include more tightly controlled access, moving donation boxes to more secure areas, removing valuables from display as well as increasing physical security measures. 

Michael Brooke, head of operational Services for Police Crime Prevention Initiatives said:  "A sensible and practical level of security, which will not adversely affect the efficient running of the place of worship, is essential. The majority of burglaries are committed by opportunist thieves who choose premises that have no obvious signs of security and where they think they will not be seen.

"Having someone who meets and greets visitors is a great preventative measure. In particular, having someone who knows the congregation enables strangers to be identified and either welcomed or turned away. It's also useful to remove and lock valuables away during times outside the service."

Last month, the government announced that it'll be doubling the funding of the Places of Worship Protective Security Scheme to £3.2 million. 

It allows religious buildings and associated faith community centres to receive government funding to improve physical security. This can include more secure gates, locks, alarms and CCTV in order to deter and prevent hate crime attacks.

Minister for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams said: "During this global pandemic, personal faith has been a source of comfort and strength for many.

"I would urge all places of worship who feel they are vulnerable to hate crime to apply for the fund, and as a government we will do all we can to make your congregations feel safe and protected."

Groups have until 9th August to make an application. 

Since its introduction five years ago, more than 180 grants have been awarded helping 76 churches,75 mosques, 23 gurdwaras and nine Hindu temples.
 

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