FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — While churches across our area are gearing up for Christmas services, sheriffs are urging church goers to be aware of their surroundings.
“I believe that our places of worship are targets now and they need to know that,” said Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin, who is president of the NC Sheriffs’ Association.
Peterkin attends Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville. His pastor is Christoppher Stackhouse. Both said after the shooting at a Charleston church this summer that leave nine people dead, they knew they had to talk about security.
“What to do with our family when somebody starts shooting in the sanctuary,” said Pastor Stackhouse. “When I had to have a serious conversation with my wife about that, then it really solidified that it was time to do something.”
Sheriffs from across the state discussed ways churches and other places of worship could improve their security. This week, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association put forth guidelines to all 100 sheriffs on ways to keep their communities safe.
“We, at the Sheriffs’ Association, believe no one should worship in fear,” said Peterkin.
The sheriffs recommend having a security plan in place. That includes providing authorities the blueprints of the church or house of worship, having established ways to communicate with law enforcement, and providing procedures for evacuation and lockdown.
Pastor Stackhouse agrees churches need to plan for the worst.
“This is 2015, going into 2016,” he said. “Hopefully, the way we trended in this direction, after a while we can trend back in a direction where this is no longer needed.”
The NC Sheriffs’ Association recommends churches or houses of worship reach out to their local sheriff’s office for more details on how their security plans can be improved.