‘It should have never come to this:’ Houses of worship seek precautions amid safety concerns

News13 Digital First

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Trinity United Methodist Church is being rebuilt after getting flooded in Hurricane Florence.

Included in the rebuild: new safety measures.

“The rebuilding is going to give us the opportunity to do some things that should probably have been done before,” Reverend Kim Strong said. “We’re putting in 17 to 18 security cameras in our new building.”

Rev. Strong doesn’t plan to stop at cameras when it comes to making his congregation feel safer.

“We’re going to start locking to doors one the service starts to make sure nobody can come in that’s not already in,” he said.

Trinity is also set to employ guards to ensure safety.

This is one example of a growing trend: places of worship are looking for new ways to stay safe.

One person is still recovering after a shooting at a Columbia area church Sunday, sparking outrage on social media.

“It’s getting closer and closer to home it seems like every day,” Conway Police Chief Dale Long said.

He explained that an increasing number of places of worship are contracting with the city’s police department to have off-duty officers patrol during services.

“It’s growing,” Chief Long said. “It is growing to the point where it’s becoming more and more difficult to do it simply because of the stress on the manpower.”

The department also frequents places of worship when on-duty officers know services are happening.

But as more places of worship require security, Chief Long predicts many will start to hire private guards and set internal safety measures.

“We’ll allow law enforcement to come and critique the plan, help give suggestions, but at the end of the day, they are understanding that it’s us that is responsible for this,” Chief Long said. “That is the society we’re heading in.”

Rev. Strong has been a minister for 41 years, and hasn’t worried about security until recently. He estimates about 25 percent of his congregation at his old church carried concealed weapons to service.

He said they did it for protection.

“It should never have come to this,” Rev. Strong said. “It’s the day and age in which we live but we want our people to feel secure when they come to church.”

News13 reached out to several local synagogues and mosques, but none were able to provide a comment on this topic.

Myrtle Beach police tells News13 their department also gets requests from local houses of worship for additional security.

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