How a suburban security expert is launching a 'Ministry of Church Defense'
We usually think of houses of worship as places of peace, refuge and fellowship, but they also can be places of protest, family conflict and, in some rare, high-profile cases, unthinkable violence.
That's where Jack Rolfe comes in.
Rolfe, a church security consultant from Sugar Grove and author of the book "Watch My Sheep: Establishing and Running Your Security Ministry," is launching a new organization this week called Ministry of Church Defense to help houses of worship across the Chicago area provide safe environments for their flocks.
The group, which is free to join, will hold its first gathering Saturday at Calvary Church in Naperville, where Rolfe serves as security manager. The agenda includes discussion of de-escalation tactics, threat assessments and dealing with mentally challenged people.
"We're just trying to get churches coming together every now and then to discuss best practices, training, intelligence and fellowship," Rolfe told us this week. "We've had a really good response."
Rolfe took an unexpected route to becoming an expert in church security. A retired salesman for a chemicals company, his entry came about 30 years ago when he was asked to serve as a security volunteer at his church. He now leads a team of 110 members, some of them current or former law enforcement officers, who provide security to the up to 8,000 weekly church attendees.
Since he's taken on that role, we've seen some horrific instances of violence in houses of worship, including mass shootings at churches in Charleston, South Carolina, and Sutherland Springs, Texas, a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
While such events are fortunately rare, preparing for them is part of Rolfe's work. He teaches a common active shooter training program known as ALICE -- Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.
"But our objective would be to stop it before it ever happens," he added.
A larger part of his work is preparing for situations church security workers are more likely to come across, from vehicle break-ins during services to domestic disputes to people wandering in suffering mental or emotional distress.
And unlike a place of business or public facility, a house of worship needs an added layer of sensitivity to deal with those circumstances, Rolfe said.
"We want to treat people in a loving Christian way, and a lot of times we're ambassadors for the church," he said. "Sometimes people are asking us to pray for them. Really, it is more ministry than it is security."
To find out more, visit ministryofchurchdefense.com.
Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross
You can go home again
New Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross certainly did when he was sworn in Wednesday night, in a ceremony at East Aurora High School.
Cross is a loyal Tomcat -- as is Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin -- and when city officials determined a large crowd was going to attend the ceremony, it seemed fitting to have it in the high school's auditorium.
"Chief Cross, you exemplify our district mission, to help all of our students reach their full potential," East Aurora District 131 Superintendent Jennifer Norrell said. The school has faced several challenges the past few decades. Only 75% of seniors graduated in 2020; 61% of its students come from low-income households, and nearly 20% are English-language learners.
In his address after he took his oath, Cross referenced his childhood. "I remember the first time I wanted to become a police officer," Cross said. "Officer Vic (Puscas, a former chief) came to my fifth-grade classroom at O'Donnell School. I was so impressed with him and the things that he spoke about that I decided right then and there to become a police officer.
"I wonder how he would feel knowing the impact he had on a skinny little kid growing up on the east side of Aurora."
Seniors not the only victims
Stereotypes might have us believe that it's only seniors who fall prey to online scams, but a new study found teens and young adults are a fast-growing segment of victims.
The study, produced by the website Social Catfish, found victims age 20 and younger grew by 156% from 2017 to 2020, compared to 112% for seniors. There were 23,186 young victims last year, compared to 9,053 in 2017, according to the report.
Overall, seniors remain by far the most victimized group, with 105,301 victims losing $966 million in 2020.
The most common swindles targeting the young include job scams, romance scams, social media influencer scams and bogus online shopping sites.
• Have a question, tip or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.