In its first report on violence against Christian organizations, the Church Security Network found 17 violent crimes were reported by churches so far in 2009. Six of them resulted in homicides.
In total, 472 incidents of violence, theft and other criminal acts were tracked in the "Crimes Against Christian Organizations in the United States" report.
Accounting for 64 percent of the crimes, burglary was the most frequently reported incident by churches. Thirteen percent of the crimes were arson and 7 percent were general theft.
Such crimes, in addition to vandalism, have added up to more than $6.3 million in church property loss in the past six months.
Internal theft totaled more than $2.3 million.
This is the first year the Christian Security Network started tracking crimes against churches. The network's executive director, Jeffrey Hawkins, notes that not all criminal activities are reported to a governmental agency and thus estimates the total number of crimes to be five to six times greater than the nearly 500 reported this year.
A number of reasons churches may not report such incidents is because of their stance on forgiveness or fear of public embarrassment, Hawkins says.
The public safety/security expert founded Christian Security Network last year in the wake of a shooting at a Knoxville, Tenn., church that left two people dead.
More recently, an Illinois pastor, the Rev. Fred Winters, was shot to death while delivering a sermon and an abortion practitioner, Dr. George Tiller, was also shot dead while serving as an usher in his Wichita, Kansas, church.
Hawkins says churches need to have proper security measures and plans in place.
"We frequently receive calls and emails from church members who are worried and frustrated that their church leadership is not more proactive about church security," said Hawkins in a statement. "As a society, we protect businesses, schools, banks and other institutions. Now, more than ever, that same level of protection needs to be extended to churches and faith-based organizations."
The Christian community is as a whole is behind the curve compared to the secular world in terms of security and emergency preparedness, the network laments.
Tracking violence against churches is just one way the network is hoping to help get Christians up to par with the rest of the world.
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Christian Security Network is a national organization dedicated to the advancement of security, safety and emergency planning for Christian churches, schools, ministries and missionaries. Its "Crimes Against Christian Organizations in the United States" report is based on data from a variety of sources and verified against news media reports and police department data.