UNION, NJ – A town meeting to review and discuss security around and inside houses of worship was held earlier this week with leaders of the religious community, members of the Union Police Department, Mayor Manual Figueiredo, Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan and Township Committeeman, Clifton People, Jr.

Reverend Samuel Wright, pastor of Union Chapel Church on Gustav Avenue, took a leadership role in organizing the meeting. The Reverend opened the meeting with welcoming comments, and offered reflections that “after the tragedies in Oregon and South Carolina, we come together unified“ to ensure security not only during traditional services, but weekly prayer meetings and all activities offered at the many diverse religious institutions located in the Township of Union.

Mayor Figueiredo welcomed the over 100 attendees offering support from the Township, and noted, “we come together in light of a tragedy (Oregon shooting), but this was planned well before that tragedy.  We need to be vigilant, and the Township offers all its support for the safety of worshippers in your place of faith.” 

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Township Police Director Dan Zieser spoke about the more than 30 different places of worship in Union. His focus is on “Target Hardening”, making sure the houses of worship are safe for visitors.  Many houses of worship are active every night of the week.  Zieser said the message to all religious leaders is the assurance that the Union Police Department wants to assist, whether it be through additional patrols in time of use, facilities assessment, or simply a presence when needed.  Zieser said the police department  “loves making houses calls, especially to houses of worship.”

Police Director Zieser introduced John Paige, from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the evenings guest speaker, whose focus was on discussing strategies, awareness and security guidelines for houses of worship.  Paige reviewed the strategies of identifying and mitigating security concerns for houses of worship in New Jersey as:  Establishing an appropriate security strategy at each house of worship and implementing the strategy and future actions.

The role of a security coordinator was discussed as those selected to develop, coordinate and oversee the proper protective measures needed to keep their respective house of worship, school or community center secure.  Paige went on to discuss building identification and access, fences and gates, doors and windows, security lighting, landscaping, security alarm systems, closed circuit televisions, safes, handling of cash, keys and valuables, and other issues which require assessment.

Paige informed the assembly of the need for increased awareness of congregations, training of ushers and greeters, and the potential need for security committees.  Paige provided the ‘NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Facility Self-Assessment Worksheet’ to each religious leader for their completion.  Director Zieser exended the department’s commitment to visit each place of worship after completion of the worksheet to review their level of security and preparedness.  Paige provided the Homeland Security link for additional information: http://www.njhomelandsecurity.gov/faith-based-security-resources