General Guidance For Clergy on Parsonage Security
Clergy wish to be accessible to their community as part of their pastoral care. At the same time, they and their families are entitled to live in a house providing reasonable safety and privacy.
It is the policy of the Representative Body to encourage Diocesan Parsonage Boards to assess security and safety issues for each of the Parsonages under their care and to develop plans to implement appropriate measures.
Furthermore, every cleric has a duty to consider safety and security for themselves, their families and other visitors to the Parsonage and this guidance offers some basic ‘common sense’ recommendations.
Assessment of Risk
Clergy generally receive more visitors than the average householder. Whilst the vast majority of visitors will have perfectly good reasons for calling at the house, a small minority may harbour criminal intent and, if so, will almost certainly turn up unannounced. This criminal intent may be directed at the property or the person and it is necessary to adjust the appropriate response accordingly.
Burglars are largely opportunists and the last thing they want is a struggle to enter a property. Their favourite target is a house where a door or window has been left temporarily unfastened, often when the occupant has gone out for a short time and has forgotten to lock up. Statistics show that 62% of burglaries occur at the rear of the premises and 60% involve entry via windows.
Diocesan Parsonages Boards are responsible for housing the parochial clergy and the decisions they make on the level of security they provide will depend both on the character of a particular area and the precise location of the parsonage within it. Inner-city areas, for example, do not always present higher risks than elsewhere, although the problems may differ in their nature and scale.
Undesirable visitors may target the vicarage if it is situated close to the church (which itself may be prone to burglary and vandalism) and the risks may be proportionately greater. For those clergy living further away from the church and with access to office facilities within the church or parish buildings for appointments/callers, the risks to their house and its occupants may be less. It is not possible, however, to generalise: risk is best assessed by those with detailed local knowledge and experience.
Parsonage Boards will formally assess these risks, through the Parsonage Inspector’s 5 yearly survey and at vacancy inspections, and take appropriate action. These inspections specifically address issues of security and safety and identify appropriate and reasonable works to mitigate the risks.
In assessing a property the Inspector will consider the following areas:
- Site and Grounds
- Exterior Lighting
- Intruder Alarms
- Front door
- Back or Kitchen door
- French Windows
- Sliding Patio doors
- Garages and Outbuildings
Detailed guidance has been prepared for Boards and Inspectors on possible security measures in different circumstances. Implementation of measures will always have to be prioritised on the basis of need and urgency but in many cases a programme of improvements can be instigated across each Diocese.
Clerics and occupiers should also make Inspectors and Boards aware of security and safety concerns so that reasonable measures can be considered.
Day-to-day and personal security measures
In addition to the physical measures that can be implemented at a Parsonage, there are a number of simple precautions that clergy can take in order to protect the security of their homes. For example:
Avoid tell-tale signs of going away
- When the house is to be left empty for more than a day, always tell a reliable neighbour or friend, but only tell those who need to know.
- Try to avoid publicising your absence in newsletters and notices – these can be read by not just the congregation.
- Cancel all deliveries, milk, newspapers and ask someone to check that the post and free newspapers are not sticking out of the letterbox. Alternatively, ask the post sorting office to hold post.
- Don’t leave notes for tradesmen. Telephone them instead.
- Ask a neighbour or friend to water the garden and indoor plants, mow the lawn and cut the hedge. They might also be asked to park their car occasionally on the drive or in front of the house and put the bin out on bin day.
- If everyone in the household is to be out until after dark, leave a light on in a room, not the hall. A timeswitch or light-sensitive fitting is recommended.
- In the house remember that curtains and blinds drawn in the daytime attract the thief.
- Make sure the doorbell is only audible from the inside – let people assume it is not working rather than not being answered.
- Disconnect telephones that can be heard left ringing (particularly those on window sills). Also, any answerphone message should always say “We cannot come to the ‘phone at present”, rather than “We are not here”.
- Keep garage doors shut and locked. If the garage has windows, use curtains or blinds to block prying eyes. No car often means that nobody is home.
- Where possible, check the credentials of unfamiliar callers. Ask for some identification if they claim to be officials – do not be fooled by a uniform. Some organisations use a password to help identify their representatives.
- Ask the local police about security-marking valuables. The police can provide stickers for windows advertising that this has been done.
- Don’t forget to lock up, even when just popping out for a few minutes.
- Never hide a spare key outside.
- If the house is to be left empty, shout “goodbye” to an imaginary person left inside and leave a radio on while the house is empty. Choose a “Talking Station” such as Radio 4 or 5.
- If someone is seen acting suspiciously, a simple “Can I help you?” should do the trick. Potential thieves do not like being noticed.
- If in a Neighbourhood Watch area, display a sticker in the front and back windows of the house.
- Remember to set alarms whenever you leave the premises.
- If CCTV is provided make sure it is operating as it should be.
- Use what is provided.