Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, gurdwaras, and other places of worship throughout the UK face crime daily, according to a new study.
Jacksons Fencing, UK based security specialist, recently commissioned a white paper to investigate the challenges faced when designing and specifying security solutions for places of worship, and how these buildings can be better protected from crime.
59% of respondents state their religious venue has been the target of an attack or crime, while other findings highlight the alarming frequency of these: 74% say their religious institution is a target of a crime annually, while 62% say attacks take place at least twice a year.
When we think of crime, we often envisage large gangs, but the arrest in 2019 of a lone attacker who vandalised five mosques in Birmingham serves as a reminder of the impact just one individual can have.
According to our study, vandalism is the criminal act that people find most concerning; it is also the second-most commonly experienced crime against places of worship (29%).
Overall, the most common misconduct is theft crimes (32%) while verbal attacks or harassment make up nearly a quarter of responses (24%). The least commonly experienced are trespassing (23%) and physical attacks (18%).
The results allowed us to analyse statistics within the same religion and compare the percentage of crime across all places of worship within the UK. The greater number of churches in the UK compared to other places of worship explains why Christianity appears to suffer from the highest number of attacks.
Vandalism is most common in churches. This is where 75% of incidents take place. Despite this, vandalism is not the most common crime against churches: burglary accounts for 30% of all crimes within churches, vandalism accounts for just under this (28%).
Similarly, the most common crime in Islamic institutions is theft (45% of all incidents within mosques). However, we found that Muslims experience a higher level of verbal attacks (40%), over double the proportion of Christians who do (21%).
Trespassing is the main issue that affects temples (49%) and gurdwaras (50%). Hinduism also faces issues with robbery (46%) while Sikhs encounter a significant number of verbal harassment (50%).
Places of asylum and safety?
With the diversity of faiths in the UK, there are different customs and ceremonies within places of worship, but also many unifying aspects.
They serve as peaceful places, acting as community centres, offering comfort, food, shelter and companionship to those who need it. A sense of asylum is therefore intrinsically linked within them.
Despite the rise in criminal acts against these sites (81% of respondents have seen the amount of crime stay the same or increase in the past five years), 44% believe the level of safety has improved.
A quarter of respondents reported seeing these security enhancements when they go to worship, with 38% observing that access to buildings and grounds are more tightly controlled.
The upturn in protection has been necessary as religious sites are widely perceived as ‘busy but vulnerable and insecure… soft targets.’ However, 15% did state that they felt their establishment is less safe than five years ago.
Peter Jackson, Managing Director, Jacksons Fencing comments; “How visitors feel visiting a place of worship is crucial. On-site security design must serve to keep trespassers out to help prevent crime, yet it also needs to be welcoming and instill a sense of peace. There is a fine balance to be struck between effective security and aesthetics.”
He continues, “Our findings and key recommendations will hopefully encourage stakeholders in physical security to work with people of faith towards a common goal of protecting places of worship which are central to so many communities within the UK.”