Local sheriff encourages community to secure places of worship

Pee Dee sheriff encourages church safety prep

MULLINS, SC (WMBF) - Following the deadly attacks at two mosques in New Zealand, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office is reminding everyone of the importance of security and safety at places of worship.

Law enforcement officials and churches in Marion County believe any place can become a target so it’s important to be as prepared as possible.

"A lot time churches want security they just don't know how," Tammy Erwin, a victim’s advocate with the Marion County Sheriff's Office, said.

Erwin said the department offers to meet with churches to do a free evaluation and tailor a plan to meet their specific needs.

"One church may have a lot of exits so that's something that we need to address," Erwin said.

She said over the past few years the request to improve church security has rapidly increased. After the Charleston church shooting almost four years ago, it's a constant reminder.

“This is something that we need to address and with churches. I understand their hesitance, but we were called to protect the flock,” Erwin said.

Eddie Page is the head of security at the Mullins First Baptist Church. He said the church formed a task force and has several security measures in place to ensure safety.

"We constantly walk around and look and we also have our greeters at the doors and what doors we don't use, they are locked," Page said.

He said the greeters are mostly retired police officers and other law enforcement.

"They have in their training have develop tasks to look for things," he said.

Erwin suggests that other churches do the same by utilizing emergency personnel who are also members.

She said having patrol cars parked out front of the church is also a good deterrent.

However, the biggest advice she gives to churches still in need of a plan is to start the conversation on church safety.

“Bring your board or your leaders in and figure out that you want your church to do,” Erwin said.

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