Explaining the adoption of security measures by places of worship: perceived risk of victimization and organizational structure

Abstract

Many law enforcement agencies and religious communities are trying to bolster the security measures taken by places of worship. While research has examined the effectiveness or consequences of organizational security, little research has attempted to understand variation in the adoption of security measures. This study derives hypotheses from the criminological and organizational literatures to understand why places of worship vary in their security. The study then assesses those hypotheses using data generated from a survey of places of worship located in the United States. The analysis shows that a place of worship’s perception of future victimization risk significantly increases the odds of security measures being present. Organizational variables, such as size, resources, and role specialization, however, also have significant effects on the odds of a place of worship having security measures. These findings show the importance of considering both organizational and criminological dynamics when examining security and crime in organizational populations.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    “Congregation” refers to an established physical location where a group of people consistently meet primarily for the purpose of worship, but also for other religious activities. It is not meant to refer to any specific religious tradition. As with any definition, there are fuzzy or borderline cases, such as workplace bible study groups, but this definition distinguishes congregations from other religious gatherings, such as religious concerts, pilgrimages, seasonal religious events, and so forth (Chaves et al. 2014).

  2. 2.

    As a comparison, there are an estimated 302,179 fast food establishments in the United States (IBIS World 2017).

  3. 3.

    Although not always distinguished, perceived risk of victimization is related to but distinct from other concepts, such as fear of victimization. Based on the work of Warr, perceived risk of victimization is a proximate cause of fear, not necessarily fear itself; Fear is a reaction to an immediate threat, whereas anxiety is a reaction to a future or past event(s) (Warr 1984, 1990, 1994).

  4. 4.

    The “nontraditional” label comes a commonly used classification system of religious groups (Steensland et al. 2000).

  5. 5.

    Probably, the most notable religious tradition we did not sample was that of Catholicism. Our reasoning was twofold. First, although Catholic adherents represent over 25 percent of the individual population, Catholic congregations only represent about six percent of the congregational population. Furthermore, we expected that the risks faced by Catholic congregations would parallel those found in some Protestant congregations (e.g., being large, located in an urban neighborhood, comprised of Hispanic members). As a result, we chose to focus our resources in generating as large enough of a Protestant core sample as possible.

  6. 6.

    For example the 2008-2009 US Congregational Life Survey received 148 responses from 1330 invited congregations (11%). See http://thearda.com/Archive/Files/Descriptions/CLS08PR.asp.

  7. 7.

    Examining the open-ended responses to this latter category finds that most of these individuals identified as a leader or member of the congregation’s board of directors, as an executive director, or as some combination of the other categories.

  8. 8.

    A reader raised the issue of security through police paid duty. We did not have a separate question for this, as we are assuming that congregations would interpret the security guard measure broadly. However, it is possible that some congregations interpreted this to only mean security guards hired from private companies or other sources.

  9. 9.

    The full list was as follows: (1) alarm system on entry-door(s), (2) motion detectors inside building, (3) security camera(s), outside of building, (4) security camera(s), inside of building, (5) security camera(s), parking lot, (6) installed additional lighting around exterior of building, (7) installed additional lighting in parking lot, (8) limited the number of entry points into parking lot, (9) limited number of entry points into building, (10) visitors must be buzzed into building, (11) fence around exterior of property, (12) gate at entry to parking lot, (13) security guard(s), full-time, (14) security guards, part-time, (15) security guard(s), special events only, (16) person living on property of congregation, (17) signs banning weapons on property, (18) signs reminding people to lock cars. We do not examine the motion detector, extra lighting, restricted parking lot, door buzzer, fence\gate, or signage measures in this paper either because they overlapped heavily with the outcomes we do examine (e.g., alarms and motion detector) or were relatively rare (e.g., gate in parking lot).

  10. 10.

    These responses were in the reverse order on the survey.

  11. 11.

    This question was asked two pages earlier on the instrument than the questions about experienced crimes with the goal of preventing the latter questions from unduly shaping responses.

  12. 12.

    We examined the variance inflation factors (VIFs) for all of the predictors in our analysis to assess whether multicollinearity would be a problem. The mean VIF was 1.69 and the highest VIF was 3.39. Both of these are well below the level of concern.

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Scheitle, C.P., Halligan, C. Explaining the adoption of security measures by places of worship: perceived risk of victimization and organizational structure. Secur J 31, 685–707 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-017-0124-z

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Keywords

  • Security
  • Organizations
  • Places of worship
  • Cameras
  • Alarms
  • Guards