A Message from Sheriff Scott Israel

SECURING OUR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS

Churches, temples, religious schools and other religious institutions are vital to our community, yet they also face special security risks. By their very welcoming and spiritual nature, places to worship are typically open long hours every day – and sometimes around the clock.

This open-door nature of houses of worship can make them especially vulnerable to individuals who are fueled by hate, or suffering from mental illness, and who are seeking to inflict harm. Case in point was the horrific racist terror attack in June on the church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine people dead at an evening Bible study class.

As sheriff, the safety of our community is my primary concern. I want to ensure your protection from harm in all of your daily activities, whether it is going to work, to school or to worship.

This is not a new concern for me. In recent years, because of a few anti-Semitic incidents in South Florida, the Broward Sheriff’s Office conducted a “Keeping Your Jewish Institutions Safe” conference to prepare synagogues to address safety concerns during the high holy days.

Simultaneously, our BSO Community Outreach team and our Chaplain’s Office were also essential in building stronger ties between our agency and Broward’s many diverse religious groups. Many faith communities in Broward – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu – have remarked that trust between BSO and their congregations has grown incredibly.

In the aftermath of the Charleston attacks, we are expanding our security conference this year to include religious institutions of all faiths to discuss their concerns and how, working together, we can bring people together. This is what I like to call “Uniting Broward”: to share ideas to make our community safer.

Our religious community can learn a lot from us about how they can better protect their institutions and congregations. Among items that make a difference: improving lines of sight by keeping hedges and bushes trimmed low to remove potential blind spots, ensuring outdoor lighting illuminates all entrances to the institution to discourage intruders and adding security cameras to deter potential acts of vandalism or even terrorism.

Most importantly is the concept of simply being alert: if you SEE SOMETHING unusual, SAY SOMETHING so it can be promptly reported to law enforcement. If anything seems out of the ordinary, make it your responsibility to share that information. Only by sharing vital pieces of information can steps be taken to avert potentially dangerous situations.

To learn more, or to schedule a security inspection and review at your place of worship, please contact the Broward Sheriff’s Office at 954-321-4717.

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