Safer Places of Worship

Securing the Grounds

The perimeter of your property is an important area to consider when looking at your security.  Factors to be specifically considered are as follows:

  • the first impression afforded by hedges, gates, etc - a well-cared for appearance is not only daunting to the opportunist thief but also engenders a feeling of pride and wellbeing within your community; these factors themselves contribute to crime prevention and encourage passers-by to be more vigilant;
  • although it is not normally feasible to totally secure a perimeter - people can be encouraged to use only designated entrances and footpaths by maintaining a substantial perimeter barrier; not only does this make for a more orderly surrounding area, but also attention is more likely to be drawn to people in other areas;
  • it is usually possible to prevent access by vehicles – vehicles are essential to criminals needing to carry away heavy objects such as safes, lead from roofs or items of furniture;
  • natural surveillance by passers-by and local residents serves to prevent crime and should be facilitated wherever possible by ensuring that hedges, walls, etc., are no more than four feet higher than the level of the adjoining roads and paths.


Access to the roof is often relatively easy due to large cast-iron fall pipes and purpose built fixed iron ladders. Measures can easily be taken to prevent access. Anti-climb paint can be applied to fall pipes starting at least eight feet above ground level. This type of paint does not dry and is very slippery. Barbed wire and anti-climb devices can also be fitted to fall pipes above this height.

Advertise the fact that you have used anti-climb paint and barbed wire - not only will these highlight potential dangers but will also act as a good deterrent. Any fixed ladders should have the first rung well above the height of an average person and a section of at least five feet should be protected by a padlocked, hinged metal cover.

Low level roofs can also present problems. Barbed wire, barbed tape or roller devices can be fitted to deter the criminal or vandal and deny access. These must be fitted well out of reach to prevent accidental injury, usually above 8 feet from the ground and signs posted warning of possible dangers. The above measures can also be used where parapets exist.

When using anti-climb paint:

  • prior to painting, all surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned to remove loose rust, scale and dirt;
  • if used on absorbent materials, e.g. brick, stone or concrete, a sealer should first be applied;
  • the paint should be applied at least one eighth of an inch thick;
  • paint may require periodic renewal, particularly in dusty areas or where leaves may blow.

Gates should be properly maintained at all times and, wherever possible, be self-closing. Consideration should be given to keeping gates locked at night. Double width gates and those wide enough to allow access by vehicles should be locked when not in use and certainly at night.

If the gate is hidden from public surveillance, then it should be stronger than normal.

A gate with broken hinges, broken joints, wet or dry rot, warped, twisted, too tight or too loose would be considered unsuitable until the defects have been rectified. Remember that persistent slamming will ultimately break joints and hinges.

Make sure bolt holes are clear and hinges and catches are well maintained and oiled.

You should bear in mind that there may well be a public footpath leading through your grounds. If this is the case and your gate is a double opening type, consider restricting entry to allow one person through at a time, like a wicket gate.

Stone or brick walls should be regularly inspected and maintained. Damage should be repaired and any graffiti removed as soon as possible.

Make sure that your property is seen to be looked after and you will have the respect of those people who live in and use the area.

Trees can obstruct natural surveillance and can also be used as cover by criminals, as well as encouraging children to use the areas around the building as a playground. Branches should, therefore, be cut from the main trunk to a height of at least five feet from the ground to both maintain maximum vision and discourage climbing activities.

It is essential to have a definable perimeter. The perimeter is usually a wall, fence or hedge. The boundary should be well maintained at all times and any damage repaired as quickly as possible. Access must be via a clearly definable gate or door.

If hedges are present, they should be regularly trimmed and maintained at a height that will allow vision from adjoining properties and roads. Hedges should be thick and difficult to penetrate. Choose something like hawthorn, privet, holly, yew, laurel. Please consider where you plant thorny or irritant plants i.e. not in areas where children play.
Click here for some planting suggestions.

Ladders used for general maintenance should preferably be stored within the building. If they have to be left outside, they should be padlocked to fixtures or rawlbolted to a solid wall.

Fixed ladders should have the first rung well above the height of an average person. A section of the ladder for at least 5 feet should be protected by a padlocked hinged metal cover or be removed.