About 200 Missouri law enforcement officers, church officials and churchgoers attended a forum last night in Jefferson City about potential threats facing houses of worship. Threats could be anything from a health emergency of a member, a natural disaster, theft, burglary and acts of violence. Some of the top takeaways from data presented there include:
*Missouri is not immune to church threats.
*Many of the criminal acts against churches involve arson.
*Churches are soft targets because of easily accessible geographical locations, a potentially large number of people, routine scheduling, multiple entrances, unrestricted access, overall low security and an open-door atmosphere.
*Most threats occur outside of normal worship times, outside the main worship building, and often during special events.
*Most violent incidents resulted from personal conflict, robbery and domestic violence issues.
*Some assailants had an affiliation with the target.
*Many Missouri churches lack security, evacuation and communication plans to deal with emergencies and criminal behavior.
The Thursday forum was held at Farm Bureau in Jefferson City.