Police search for church vandal, faith leaders discuss safety

Protecting houses of worship

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Chesterfield police continue their search for a man who vandalized a church, breaking a window, ripping Bibles and spray-painting walls.

Since September 1st, CCPD says three churches have been targetted by vandals. Over a period of almost three weeks, Chester Presbyterian experiences smashed windows, damaged fire alarms and police say a a flag was burned.

“It makes me impassioned to stand in solidarity and support with communities wherever they are targeted and for whatever reason," explained Rabbi Michael Knopf. “This is a moment for people of faith to double down on their faith and tradition.”

Knopf and the Temple Bethel community continue to review ways to keep their place of worship safe and secure. Knopf says they look to work with community partners and they have continued to take an even deeper look into safety measures over the last few years, as Knopf says there has been a rise in antisemitism.

“We need to balance being vigilant and secure with being welcoming and inclusive- we don’t what anyone to feel our steps to keep ourselves safe are keeping people out that need to come in," he explained.

The conversation is something the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy sees frequently.

“We do have to find new ways that we wish we didn’t have to, to secure and protect both our facilities and our people,” explained Executive Director Kim Bobo.

Bobo says places of worship have continued tho work with local law enforcement to help assess the inside and outdoor safety of houses of worship, as well as create emergency preparedness plans. Bobo also says communities have to continue to take a deeper look at the bigger issues in society.

“We have to figure out how as a community we learn about one another, we respect our differences," she explained.

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