Policy & Security Architect
Psc, Jsc, Msc (DIP), BBA (Hons) PGC (ISMFI)
The contemporary global records of terrorist activities involve attacks on places of worship not to mention the recent Christchurch mosque shooting that left fifty-one (51) people dead with forty-nine (49) severely injured and the Texas church shooting that also left two (2) dead.
Same method of attacks is now the foremost tactics of terrorists in Africa specifically Somalia, Kenya Nigeria and Burkina Faso recording scores of attacks on places of worship with several people dead. Africa has a long history of terrorism, but has only recently begun to acknowledge the problem and treating it, as a threat that transcends borders with focus on either soft or hard targets.
Hard targets are those that have full military security such as military bases while soft targets refer to targets that are of less fortified security and are usually dominated by civilians such as airports, bus stations, hotels, malls, stadia, event grounds, mosques and churches among others which predominantly remain targets of terrorism.
Terrorism has no universally accepted definition in study but the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism, as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Among the many objectives of terrorism is to destroy the public’s sense of security in places familiar to the public and in Africa that happens to be places of worship: mosques and churches among others.
The church is a vulnerable target because of its large number of congregants including prominent and high profile personalities that can be found at one place at a time, making the church a concentrated target.
The focus of this article is the church, as it records multiple terrorist activities in recent times giving pertinence to church security. Church security has now become a bottleneck, as to how it can effectively and efficiently be managed by church leaderships, creating a contextual security dilemma. It is therefore imperative to discuss measures that are reliable, efficient and effective to deter, detect, delay, deny and devalue any form of threats to the church and its members. The purpose of this article is to create security awareness and discuss the role of the church and its members to counter acts of terrorism in the church. The relevance of church security awareness in no doubt shall help avert terror attacks and save lives while providing congenial worship environment.
This article thus discusses Access Control Systems; Church Protective Intelligence; Surveillance; Behaviour Pattern Recognition (BPR); Church Bomb Threat Management and Training to create awareness as part of focus roles of the church in countering acts of terrorism against the church.
Access Control Systems
The term access control refers to the practice of restricting entrance to a property, a building, or a room to authorized persons. Physical access control is a matter of who, where and when. The system determines who is allowed to enter or exit, where they are allowed to exit and enter and when they are allowed to exit and enter.
Access control can be achieved by mechanical or electronic systems and human, and in the context of church security, ushers. Church ushers have been observed to be only ushering arriving members to their seats without any form of security determination and consciousness in the wake of acts of terrorism against churches.
Meanwhile access control systems as identified, when efficiently and effectively implemented in churches could help deter, delay and detect any forms of intended acts of terrorism against the church. It is therefore important for church ushers to be well trained and conscientized to play a security role of observing and detecting suspicious manners of members especially individuals noticed to be new in church, as part of access control systems in churches.
Church Protective Intelligence
Church Protective Intelligence is a proactive method of identifying, assessing and mitigating possible threats to a client and in this context, the church. Terrorist often than not carry out a form of assessment of their targets to identify an opportunity that they can leverage to activate their plans hence, conduct some form of reconnaissance of their target before hitting it.
However, an effective detection system as part of church protective intelligence identifies individuals (especially new members) who pose potential threats to determine if the threat is legitimate and if so, how much of a threat. Detection systems in church comprises ushers, congregants’ observances, CCTV footage analyses and the preachers standing in front and looking at everyone among others. If the individual posing as threat is assessed to be positive, the church security details, comprising ushers quickly isolate that individual in a manner devoid of distractions in the auditorium.
It is therefore no gainsaying that preachers, ushers and congregants form part of the detection system to carry out protective intelligence to identify, assess and mitigate threats to the church.
Most churches being security conscious to some extent integrate surveillance system of closed-circuit television (CCTV) into their physical security measures. A random Effectiveness and Efficiency Test (EET) conducted revealed that CCTV systems in churches are not monitored for continuous intelligence analyses of its footage to detect suspicious activities and behaviours.
The CCTV systems are rather used as reactionary device to retrieve data as part of investigative processes when the damage is already caused, defeating the essence of security.
The Sri Lanka church bombing on 21 April 2019 is a classic example of lack of monitoring and continuous intelligence analysis of CCTV footage. The attacker was seen with his backpack (potential threat indicator/prop) containing the bomb, walked all the way to occupy a seat in the front role unnoticed before setting off the bomb, killing over hundred lives and injured many.
Nothing can therefore be more important in church security than installing CCTV surveillance devices and having it monitored with continuous intelligence analysis to identify potential threats to the church.
Behaviour Pattern Recognition
According to Colonel Ayorrogo during his lecture at the University of Ghana Business School, “BPR is a method or tool use in the detection of suspicious terrorist and criminal behaviour prior to an attack. It is a system designed as a preventive methodology, using unique behavioural features of people involved in an extreme unlawful activity.”
BPR uses a security methodology based on two (2) components: observation of irregular behaviour for the church environment and targeted conversation with suspects in the church environment. Church security officials including ushers with trained observation skills should therefore look for behaviours that are irregular for the church environment.
Church Bomb Threat Management
Suicide bomb and arms attacks in churches seem to be the leading methodology for terrorists requiring the need to manage bomb threats in churches. The attackers usually can be identified with some indicators and potential props.
Props according to Col Ayorrogo, “are used to transport devices unnoticed, to make people seem harmless or to help people blend into the church environment.” Props can include but not limited to: baby strollers, backpacks, briefcases and musical instrument cases among others.
Church attendees may appear with any of mentioned props and one needs to discern how heavy are those props; are there wires running from the props to the person carrying it; does the person fit the profile for someone who normally carries those props?
These and many other questions should be running through one’s mind when managing bomb threats at church and any other locations or environment.
Training to Create Awareness
Training to create awareness of the church’s vulnerability to acts of terrorism with mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery measures is key in church counter terrorism processes.
Church leadership and security officials require training in suicide bomb and arms attacks indicators; BPR; CCTV Intelligence analyses; church protection intelligence/detection systems and physical/electronic access control systems.
Efficient and effective training for the entire church especially the leadership and its security details helps reduce any weak links within the church security systems. Training will also provide the avenue to integrate and coordinate counter terrorism response with state security agencies. Finally, training will help evaluate the existing church security system if there is any, to ascertain whether the church requires a private security to manage the entire church security systems or not.
To conclude, church security cannot be overstated in this contemporary era of terrorism with the church being a concentrated target to terrorist hence, the church and its leadership cannot relent in their roles in ensuring effective and efficient counter terrorism measures in the church.
The importance for church ushers to be well trained and conscientized to play a security role of observing and detecting suspicious manners of members especially individuals noticed to be new in church, as part of access control systems in churches cannot be over emphasized.
Preachers, ushers and congregants should be aware that they form part of the detection system to carry out protective intelligence to identify, assess and mitigate threats to the church. The use of CCTV surveillance devices and having it monitored with continuous intelligence analysis to identify potential threats to the church is a key factor in church security.
Church security officials including ushers with trained observation skills should therefore look for behaviours that are irregular for the church environment and this can be achieved through church security training.