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Police announce safety training for area churches

DALE CITY — The Prince William County Police Department today announced it would hold a faith-based training program for area churches.

The training will be held on Nov. 21 at the Western District Station at 8900 Freedom Center Boulevard near Manassas. The announcement comes after a man walked into a Texas church on Sunday and shot and killed 26 people.

Churches in our area have not had to deal with a shooter situation, but they are aware it can happen.

“The most common crimes reported by places of worship are property crimes which would include vandalism and burglaries, but thankfully they aren’t too common in Prince William County,” said police spokesman Nathan Probus. “The presentation usually includes the “Run. Hide. Fight” video which discusses active shooter situations.”

Churches are open places of worship where people — anyone — can come and go. Fostering a sense of openness is what many churches do well.

“We’re taught the Catholic faith to love and trust everyone, but we cannot trust everyone,” said Daisy Ramos, who is a member of Holy Family Catholic Chruch in Dale City.

Earlier this year, Ramos attended a safety training at the Arch Diocese of Arlington. While there, she heard from a psychologist, and from an FBI agent about what to watch for when it comes to church safety.

“It taught me what to look for,” she said.

For example, if someone walks up to you in church, and they look like they are going to shake your hand, but they don’t extend their had as far as they can, trainers told Ramos that person could be holding a gun.

“But we can’t be paranoid, either,” she said. “That person may also have a medical condition and can’t extend their hand.”

Other churches in the area have also made security a priority. A security officer at Christ Chapel in Woodbridge who did not want his name published said church leaders there are aware of faith-based training programs offered by organizations like Prince William police, and attend them regularly.

At First Mount Zion Baptist Church near Dumfries, getting to know the parishioners who come on a weekly basis is an important first line of defense. 

” Growing up I was never concerned about public safety during worship. But these days with our gun laws, and the accessibility of guns it has to change the worship environment,” said Dr. Luke Torian, pastor of First Mount Zion Baptist Church near Dumfries. 

Overall, protecting those who attend worship services, or other church functions can be a challenge.

“Nowadays you really don’t know. You can be sitting next to someone who can do anything,” said Ramos. “You just have to keep your eyes open.”

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