Pastor Danny Crosby would never have thought of church safety 30 years ago.
But on Tuesday, Crosby and more than 10 of his staffers at First Baptist Church of Cleburne will attend a daylong seminar on the matter.
"Churches are no longer exempt," Crosby said. "I think training is needed."
Representatives from more than 70 North Texas churches are scheduled to attend the conference hosted by Cleburne police.
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The free seminar, designed for church leaders and police, will focus on youth safety, church safety awareness and how to handle disruptive people.
"We've not had anything major happen at any of our local churches, so we wanted this to be like a preventive measure," said Cleburne police investigator Wesley Mackey, one of the organizers of the seminar, Cleburne's first. "We thought we would have about 100 attending, but we're up to 260 now."
The seminar comes just four weeks after the Rev. Clint Dobson of NorthPointe Baptist Church in Arlington was killed and his assistant, Judy Elliott, was beaten during a robbery at the church. Anthony Gregory Springs, 19, and Steven Lawayne Nelson, 24, both of Arlington, face charges of capital murder and attempted capital murder in the attack.
Organizers of the Cleburne event said the seminar was scheduled before the attacks.
For years, lax security of churches has made them easy pickings for criminals, statistics indicate.
The Christian Security Network, a nationwide organization that provides church safety training, noted in its annual report that thefts and burglaries cost churches about $22 million last year.
Arsonists also damaged at least $3 million in church property.
And Colorado church safety expert Carl Chinn has tracked 423 incidents of "deadly force" used on church property or at church events since 1999 -- meaning that someone was killed or critically injured or committed suicide.
"The respect people had for churches is gone," said Chinn, who was one of four security officers responding to a gunman's attack at New Life Church in Colorado Springs in 2007.
Pastor Jerry Power Jr. of Friendship Baptist Church in Hurst said churches can no longer afford not to have security plans. Power has been to a similar seminar and continues to update security measures at his church.
"It's not easy to convince some members because they'll say, 'We are a church,'" Power said. "But the reality is that crimes happen at churches."
The Cleburne seminar will feature experts on church safety, including Fort Worth Detective Mike Carroll, who investigated the 1999 Wedgwood Baptist Church shootings that killed seven people.
Also speaking will be Greg Love, one of the founders of Ministry Safe in Fort Worth, which trains churches, schools and other organizations in awareness of sexual abuse; and Cpl. Jimmy Meeks, a 25-year veteran of the Hurst police force who is an ordained minister and has made about 35 church safety presentations since 2009.
Meeks said that alarm systems, locks and camera surveillance will be discussed but that the focus will be for people to pay attention.
"It's time to watch what people are doing at churches," Meeks said. "From the smallest churches to the mega ones, you must have a security plan."
Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763