While consulting with churches, one of the first questions we receive is whether they should spend money on cameras for their church or upgrade the current system. My reply is to ask, “How many volunteers watch the cameras during church services now?”
I usually receive a confused look. There is a mistaken belief that cameras alone will provide adequate security, but they fail to stop crimes in progress alone. The human factor is needed to identify what the camera is seeing, and to act upon it, otherwise, you have a very expensive piece of equipment that will capture the victimization(s) alone.
The New Spring Church lawsuit may illustrate the need to use your cameras to full effect, including assigning someone to monitor them when they church doors are open and training them to pay attention to suspicious behavior. Additionally, the lawsuit complains the church did not have effective child care policies in place to protect the children while on church campus. Policy becomes a very important issue when/if your church is sued. The issue becomes whether there was policy and then whether the policy was implemented, reviewed and training provided to church volunteers.
It has been reported the suspect had received a background check, but as happens in so many cases, if he had not been detected and arrested previously, nothing would have been revealed in the background check.
A few weeks ago a lawsuit was filed in North Charleston, SC against New Spring Church. This church is a multi-site congregation with an average weekly attendance of 20,000 in 14 campuses across the state of South Carolina. A church childcare volunteer, Jake Hazlett, 28, was accused of molesting a 3 year old boy in a church bathroom on September 30, 2018.
When authorities learned of this incident, they reviewed camera footage from the past three months and identified fourteen separate instances of child abuse. Hazlett began working with children in March of 2018. The camera system only archived three months of video footage, so it is unknown how many more children were assaulted by Hazlett. He has been charged with 8 additional counts of child abuse.
According to ABC 4 News:
“Police say video surveillance they’ve reviewed shows Hazlett fondling the genitals of several young children, not only the one.
Affidavits provided by the North Charleston Police Department show Hazlett admitted to detectives “inappropriately touching numerous children” while volunteering at NewSpring,
Police say Hazlett told them he sometimes also videoed his actions and took photos of the children. Hazlett said he used the images for personal gratification, authorities say.
Hazlett admitted to detectives he knew his actions were wrong, but also said he found young boys sexually attractive, according to police affidavits.
According to the lawsuit, Hazlett often looked back at surveillance cameras he knew were in the room while molesting the children, and would frequently look over his shoulder to make sure others weren’t coming who might see what he was doing.”
When it was learned he served as a football coach and childcare worker for The Cove Church in Mooresville, NC, police opened an investigation to determine if any crimes had been committed there between 2010 and 2014.