Churches are vulnerable to thieves as they’re often open and unattended. You can still do a lot to make a church more secure without paying too much.

Interior security

Ideally the church should be locked at all times unless a responsible person is present.

But if you don’t want to lock it, you can still reduce the risk of theft and minimise loss. You can:

  • lock the church at night
  • store small valuable items in a locked vestry, cupboard or safe when not in use during the week
  • lock away altarware between services and events, and display wooden or base metal substitutes
  • consider discreetly chaining antique furniture and other valuables to floor and wall to deter opportunist thieves
  • keep valuables in a safe or a strong room when not being used for a service
  • deposit valuables that are not in regular use, including communion plates, at the bank
  • make sure a responsible person keeps keys in a secure place away from the church
  • secure the vestry with good-quality locks and bars at the windows
  • ensure all locks conform to BS 3621 specification, or higher
  • photograph all property (with a coin to indicate size) and keep a log in a safe place away from the church
  • empty the offertory box daily and display a notice saying so
  • protect stained-glass windows from the outside with polycarbonate sheet

Exterior security

You can:

  • plant a hedge that is thick and difficult to penetrate, such as hawthorn, privet, holly, yew or laurel
  • apply anti-climb paint and anti-climb devices to fall-pipes not less than eight feet from the ground, and display notices saying so
  • make sure sheds and outbuildings are well maintained and secured; thieves use the tools and machinery in them to break in
  • install effective security lighting
  • keep open only one access to the cellar (one within the church building) and brick the others up; if you can’t, secure all entrances internally with good-quality frames and five-lever deadlocks

Make sure church doors:

  • can’t be opened from the inside when locked; it’s best to use mortice deadlocks to a minimum of BS 3621
  • are substantially made with strong hinges and effective frames, and well maintained

You should use an intruder alarm because:

  • its visible presence is a very good deterrent
  • it gives the thief much less time to commit the crime
  • alarms are surprisingly cheap and very cost-effective
  • you can design a system to suit individual buildings or areas to cut down on expensive false calls
  • there are so many types, from electronic circuits on doors and windows, to surprisingly inexpensive movement detectors