Va. police offer safety, crime prevention training for faith leaders

WASHINGTON — Law enforcement in Northern Virginia are offering a training program to help make houses of worship safer after 26 people were killed in a church shooting in Texas.

It’s called “Worship Watch” and it’s a spinoff of the “Neighborhood Watch” program, said Prince William County Crime Prevention Officer Kimberly Sawicki.

The idea behind the training is to help leaders of churches and other places of worship to become more proactive.

Faith-based leaders are trained to become more observant of their surroundings, to report any suspicious activities and how to make their buildings more secure. Plus they learn crime prevention tips.

Sawicki said that the “Worship Watch” program now includes active violence preparedness training. “We define active shooter, review statistics, then we discuss how to prepare.”

She said knowing how you are going to react emotionally and mentally and how your body is going to respond to an active shooter situation as well as knowing what your options are can save lives.

The next “Worship Watch” training will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Nov. 21 at the Western District Police Station at 890 Freedom Center Blvd. in Manassas.

Sawicki said that the Prince William County Police Department has offered the “Worship Watch” program since the late 1990s. Fairfax County police has also adopted the program and has been offering it since February 2015.

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