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Sanctuary safety; protecting places of worship from violent attacks

Posted at 7:23 PM, Dec 30, 2019

COLORADO SPRINGS — Numerous faith groups facing violent attacks over the weekend brings attention to the issue of security at places of worship.

At law enforcement agencies like El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, anytime a faith group is targeted, inquiries about safety and protection increase.

“On whether we need to have a security program or whether we need to tweak our programs,” Crime Prevention Coordinator Brent Ambuehl said.

Data gathered from attacks on public places shows time is a factor.

"Under eight minutes and the incident is over with," Ambuehl said.

It is reason for public gathering places like houses of worship, to created protocols for prevention and reaction to potential violent attacks.

"One of the questions I get all the time regarding this is the question on concealed carry," Ambuehl said.

Churches, synagogues and mosques are considered sanctuaries and congregations that have differing views on whether firearms are appropriate. Rather than a yes or no, Sheriff's crime prevention advisors raise questions like liability, risk, and actual experience beyond the basics of getting a gun permit.

"The argument I bring to folks, are you proficient? And I would argue you are not proficient. If you're not out training actively," Ambuehl said.

Decisions on firearms at worship centers are up to each congregation. Gun or now guns, Ambuehl said assessing security is wise. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Crime Prevention unit does it for free.

"I'll look at your protocols if you have them in place and I'll look at them and just see if there's anything you can do better," Ambuehl said.

There is more to security than weapons. Law enforcement pros spot things like vulnerable access points, safe zones and escape routes.