GLADEWATER, TX (KLTV) - Churches are supposed to be sanctuaries. A place of peace. But more often now they are targets for random theft, violence, and even worse, crimes against children.
These factors were the focus of a seminar Thursday in Gladewater to educate church congregations on dangers to watch for. It seems that in the last ten years, churches have become battle grounds.
"We've lost over 300 - I think it's 318 people now have been murdered on church property or church related property since 1999," said Jimmy Meeks, a Fort Worth law enforcement officer.
With pastors and members of numerous East Texas churches on hand at Gladewater's First Baptist, experts chronicled various crimes against churches.
"This is very revealing when it comes to the fact that there are people out there that actually target the churches and it makes you fell victimized," said Terrell Pearson, the Gladewater First Assembly of God pastor.
"So often we say this couldn't happen to us but it truly can happen to us," said Rev. E.L.Rawls, with Parkview Baptist Church in Longview. " It was an eye opening experience for me today."
The most famous the 1980 Daingerfield incident. Jimmy Meeks was a member of that church.
"I was married at First Baptist Daingerfield," said Meeks. "Grandma came home that day with blood on her dress. One of the dear ladies there that was killed."
Little or no security makes them vulnerable to theft, vandalism, walk-in violence and even worse, pedophiles.
"False beliefs, one of them is that you're safe in a house of God," said Meeks. "How do we manage the risk."
For many, the seminar was shocking and sobering.
"The Bible says a wise man foresees danger and takes precautions," said Meeks.
It changes the way many will look at their own buildings of worship from now on.
"There used to be a time we felt that when we got to church we were safe but that day has changed," said Meeks.
One East Texan at the seminar said that it is more important than ever for congregations to keep an eye on who is coming and going from their church.