Churches boost security to protect employees

Another downtown Lawrence church has taken security precautions to keep out vagrants who might cause problems.

On Monday, First United Methodist Church, 946 Vt., began locking its doors to protect employees and others there on church business.

Church members have been finding an increasing number of intoxicated individuals, some possibly homeless. The Rev. Tom Brady said there also have been a few incidents of vandalism.

“Our problem is people who come into the building and we don’t know they’re in here,” he said. “Then when we do find them, we have a hard time getting them out.”

The church now uses a buzzer-and-speaker system to alert the church office. Doors will be unlocked, however, during regular Sunday services or when there are other group events.

Brady recalled an incident when an agitated man entered the church saying he needed money. He walked into Brady’s office, said he needed to lie down, and proceeded to stretch out on the floor.

“He was a pretty big kid and pretty strong,” Brady said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to move him. When it gets to be something like that, we call the police.”

Other churches in the downtown area near the Lawrence Community Shelter, 214 W. 10th, have taken similar precautions.

They include: Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.; First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.; and Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.

The Rev. Peter Luckey said a buzzer system and closed-circuit security camera was installed at Plymouth Congregational Church about one year ago.

“This is a big building and there are lot of nooks and crannies,” Luckey said. “We don’t want a situation where there’s people wandering around the building and we don’t know about it.”

First Christian Church, home of Lawrence’s Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen, also has a security system. LINK provides free, nutritious meals to those in need. The Rev. Randy Beeman said before its security system was installed five year ago, vagrants would sometimes go unnoticed.

“They’d crawl into a closet and go to sleep and we’d find them there the next morning,” he said.

Downtown church pastors will be meeting later this week with police officials to discuss security measures outside the churches.

“We have some people who may have substance issues and sometimes they get pretty aggressive with people just walking around the church or coming up to the church,” Beeman said.