Volusia sheriff plans to step up patrols at houses of worship

Move comes after nationwide attacks

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – The recent attacks on places of worship has Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood stepping up patrols, whether people are there or not.

The sheriff believes it's the first step to protecting innocent people who gather to pray.

"The two safest places in America were always church and school, and yet they have now become slaughterhouses," Chitwood said. "If there's a service going on, I want my deputies to stop in and at least stay for a couple of minutes. Let the congregation know, 'Hey we got our eyes on you. We're going to keep you safe.'"

Chitwood said the second part in keeping congregants safe is to have religious leaders pick trained and licensed people to carry guns.

"Our position is, you have responsible members of your congregation, why not -- if you already haven't --arm them. We'll help train you, we'll help look at your facility and help you target harden your facility," he said.

Allen Chapel in Daytona Beach took the sheriff's advice after the church shooting in South Carolina. The congregation has a security plan in place and the sheriff said it's one of the safest religious buildings in Volusia County.

"No matter what the function is there, Bible study, Sunday service, whatever. There's always somebody that's always armed," Chitwood said.

Gloria Max, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties, supports Chitwood's strategy.

She believes there should be armed congregants in every religious institution, including her own, which she attends regularly.

"These are different times. You have to be realistic and I think that there should be teams of people that the rabbi knows and the board knows that they carry concealed weapons," Max said.

Max was preparing for Wednesday night's community-wide Holocaust Memorial Observance, which Chitwood said will have extra security. Max said she's grateful for their presence but believes it's time for everyone to be proactive.

"A lot of people think it'll go away, it won't be there, but the more it is, the more it happens. We have to pay attention, we have to stand up and say, 'no more,'" she said.

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