Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella and Chief of Detectives Chief Jason Love jointly announced a plan to enhance security at locations where people worship throughout the county “in response to increasing acts of domestic terrorism across the country.”
Musella said police departments and other law enforcement agencies in the county are increasing patrols – and overall presence – at all schools in Bergen.
Love conducted a virtual briefing with clergy leaders last week to share the plan for patrolling and safeguarding gatherings of worshippers in the coming weeks.
The county’s specialized Rapid Deployment Team will focus particularly on houses of worship “at strategic times throughout the summer,” the chief said in a joint release with Musella.
RDT members got off to a fast start this past weekend, visiting more than 105 houses of worship, malls, and schools.
Local police are also giving extra attention to schools in these final weeks of their year.
“Although there is no credible threat to our area, we feel it is important to heighten our deployment and presence in and around houses of worship starting this weekend,” Love said.
“Over the summer, the public should expect to see high visibility patrols with officers in tactical gear -- including helmets and rifles -- and recognize that those officers are not responding to an incident but are there to deter anyone intending to carry out an act of violence,” the chief said.
Musella and Love were already off and running when Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin ordered State Police and all 21 county prosecutors on Tuesday to immediately boost law enforcement presence at schools statewide following the Texas school shooting.
It wasn't that long ago that security was boosted at houses of worship and other critical locations throughout the country in response to foreign bombers. The concern has since shifted to saboteurs from within -- domestic terrorists armed with high-powered assault weapons.
Musella condemned the recent massacres in Buffalo, NY, Laguna, CA and this week in Uvalde, Texas.
“Targeted and deliberate attacks against people because of their race or religion are especially heinous because they terrorize whole communities not only on that day but as individuals go about their daily lives wondering where acts of bias will be acted upon,” the prosecutor said.
“This increased presence is intended to deter and reassure,” he said.
Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton said his officers have conducted random security checks of houses of worship and placed officers at and around schools and “other high-density areas.”
In turn, he urged citizens: “If you see something, say something.”
Haworth Police Chief Michael Gracey, as president of the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association, spoke for himself and all of his peers when he said: “Our first priority must be to keep our most vulnerable residents safe.
" Our children should never have to worry whether they are safe in our schools, and parents should not have to hesitate before sending their kids to school," Gracey said. "All of Bergen County’s chiefs of police are committed to protecting our schools, houses of worship, and communities.”
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