Local News

Churches Working to Prevent Arson

Posted June 6, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— In the last year many churches across the country have been destroyed by arson. Most were predominantly black churches in the southeast, but a year old program here in North Carolina is working to prevent further destruction.

It's called Church Watch, and it's paying off and earning the praise of the faithful. Joseph Edwards participates in his church's program. He keeps a watchful eye on Terrells Creek Baptist Church.

Despite the Church Watch, most people here worry about fire. Since January 1996, arsonists have torched 16 Tarheel churches.

Terrells Creek Baptist parishioners say the need for security really hit home a couple of years ago when fire swept through their sister church in Mebane. Reverend Brian Wright, pastor at Terrells Creek, says that's why the church became the first to join the state's Church Watch program with a specific goal in mind.

Based on the community watch concept, churches designate a member as head of security, local police help with a security survey. But, perhaps most importantly, members check their churches frequently and enlist the support of people who live nearby to do the same.

State Crime Prevention Director Tony Queen says the program is working.

So far, the program has kept the threat away from Terrells Creek. Edwards says the church needs to be protected from those who have no respect for religion.

Anyone interested in starting a Church Watch program can call police or sheriff's department in your area.

Reporter:Robert Carver