Fairfax Co. Starts “Worship Watch” Neighborhood Initiative

Think “Neighborhood Watch” for places of worship. “Worship Watch" is what Fairfax County Police are calling their newest initiative.

“This is something … where we can incorporate people who attend churches and houses of worship, and who lead them, and maybe we will hopefully influence them to ... see something say something,” said Lucy Caldwell of Fairfax County Police.

It’s an effort to keep sacred places and the neighborhoods that surround them crime-free by training congregants and helping religious leaders set up a safe perimeter within their places of worship.

“Because it’s not only at the houses of worship, that could typically be targeted, but also neighborhoods around them,” Caldwell said.

In 2011, the Mubarak Mosque in Chantilly was targeted. Vandals destroyed just about every custom window. In the past three years, the mosque’s leaders have decided to beef up security, adding more than a dozen surveillance cameras.

“We record 24-hour video coverage, these are infrared cameras, and we’ve also supplemented with additional cameras inside the mosque,” said Fouzan Pal, who helps manage the mosque.

Just down the street from the mosque is St. Timothy’s Catholic Church. Tom Gadell oversees the grounds and is cautious of preserving a safe, sacred place.

“If you have overgrown bushes or trees in front of your windows anybody could hide behind there,” Gadell said.

While not wanting to share all their security techniques, Gadell’s followed the guidance of police and setup random patrols through the night.

“Because if people see that they know, well, we’re here at any time,” he said.

But he’s looking to join the "Worship Watch" for the sake of getting to know his religious neighbors.

“You have to look outside your property, you have to look and see what’s going on all around you. And if everybody can do that and watch out for each other, it’ll be much better,” Gadell added.

Police are holding their first "Worship Watch" meeting 8 a.m. Feb. 28 at the Fairfax County Government Center.

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