FBI warning local churches

| July 22, 2010

Letters mention ‘suspicious activity,’ people asking questions about buildings

Most churches in Oakland County have recently received a letter from the FBI warning of suspicious activity, of people asking questions about church buildings.

Brett Leatherman, special agent with the FBI, said the letter was sent out after several churches in the county reported suspicious people asking odd questions.

The letter warns of several instances of people showing up at places of worship and asking detailed questions about building layout and where people usually congregate in the building. Suspicious people have also asked when worship centers would be populated and where Christians could be found in the building.

The suspicious activity has been reported during the past several months, and the letter has been sent to churches of all denominations.

“It wasn’t meant to be anything to raise alarm or anything like that,” Leatherman said. “There’s no indication at all of criminal activity or a terrorist act. No indication of any threat. We’re simply passing along information we received to area churches indicating that suspicious activity is going on, in an abundance of caution.”

Leatherman said there are no indications that any of the suspicious people are involved in criminal activity. He said it’s not unusual for the FBI to be contacted by many different organizations in the community, but there was enough concern to warrant a warning in this instance.

“It’s a bit of a balancing game,” Leatherman said. “We know there hasn’t been any criminal activity or even accusations of criminal activity. At the same time, we don’t want something to happen and not have warned people.”

He said the letters have been going out for a few weeks now and some are still being sent out.

The Rev. Karen Johanns, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pontiac, said she read the letter on Monday.

“The letter is vague,” Johanns said. “Are people casing the joint for a robbery or is it terrorists? We would’ve liked to know more, but the letter didn’t give us much information.”

She said the church has not had any instances of suspicious activity.

“We’ve alerted our parishioners to report if they see anything strange or out of the ordinary,” Johanns said. “Other than that, I don’t think there’s much we can do other than to keep any eye on things and make sure everything seems safe.

“We’re a church. We’re in the business of welcoming people, and we’re still going to keep on doing that.”



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Category: Church Security, CSI Security Alerts