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Protect Your Church: Prevent Vandalism, Protect Vacant Buildings

Updated: Oct 22, 2023


Vandalism and Vacant Buildings

Vandalism and theft may also occur at vacant or unoccupied buildings, especially if owners don’t take precautions to mitigate risk. Because of that, insurance policies often reduce or eliminate coverage when a building has been vacant (and/or unoccupied) for a designated time period, such as 45 or 60 days.


Vandalism that churches may experience includes graffiti, broken windows, or equipment – even arson or squatters. Experiencing vandalism is troublesome because it requires repairs, which can be costly. Worse, vandalism left unchecked could mean much more than costly repairs. Left unrepaired, evidence of vandalism can increase crime in your neighborhood, decrease your property value, or affect your church’s reputation.


Improve security and add deterrents

Walk the perimeter of your buildings during daylight and at night to identify places that could be targets for vandals. For example, are your stained-glass windows protected by screening or plastic sheeting? Is there adequate lighting in all areas? Is your landscaping kept tidy and trimmed so that it cannot provide a screen for someone attempting to deface or damage your property? Do you use unbreakable security glass?


If it appears as though it is difficult to get onto your property unseen, that will deter vandals. Lighting and security alarms and cameras work in the same way. You may also consider hanging signs or plaques that indicate that there are cameras and alarms in place.

And, if vandalism does occur, immediately repair, replace, or paint over the work of the vandal; one of the goals – of graffiti especially – is for the damage to be seen by others. If you see vandalism in action, report it right away because vandalism is a crime.


If vandalism is a problem in your neighborhood at large, consider organizing an event for clean-up. Church members could spend an afternoon painting over graffiti, sweeping up broken glass, or making small repairs. This could become a regular monthly event that sends a signal that vandalism isn’t tolerated in your area.


Be mindful of vacant building security

If your church does have a vacant building – even if it’s only temporarily vacant due to a construction project – be extra mindful of security. Consider installing temporary fencing to make it more difficult for vandals to access the building and any construction equipment that may be stored on-site. Keep exterior lights on at night and set up timers for interior lights to give the illusion that the building is occupied.


Keep up landscaping and continue to use your security alarm and camera systems. Drive by and check on the property regularly. Communicate that the building is vacant with local authorities and request that they send patrols more frequently while it is unoccupied.

If it is clear that someone is looking after your property, vandals will be less likely to strike. Ordinarily, they are looking for easy targets, so they can do damage quickly and get away without impediment.


Our ministry is to protect your ministry. Download the full Crime & Violence Handbook for Churches from United Methodist Insurance today!

 

This content has been prepared by United Methodist Insurance Company (UMI) for informational purposes only. No article or document may accurately contemplate all possible scenarios or church resources. As such, this information is meant to foster discussion by the individual church and its members to develop a plan tailored to its own circumstances. UMI is providing this information with no warranties or guarantees of any kind and it should not be viewed as legal, financial, or other professional advice. All liability is expressly disclaimed. Any claim examples described herein are general in nature, may or may not be based on actual claims, and are for informational purposes only. Any coverage available for a claim is determined from the facts and circumstances of the claim as well as the terms and conditions of any applicable policy, including any exclusions or deductibles. In the event of a conflict with the content herein, the terms and conditions of any issued policy will control. Individual coverage may vary and may not be available in all states.


The commercial insurance coverages for United Methodist Insurance are sold and serviced directly or indirectly by Sovereign Insurance Agency (CA Lic. No. 0B01380) ("Sovereign") and underwritten by various available insurance markets. Sovereign pays United Methodist Insurance a royalty for the use of its intellectual property.

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