The new normal: Enjoy the shore, brace for terrorism
With the unofficial start of the summer season upon us, New Jersey Homeland Security officials have launched a new Secure the Shore initiative to keep everyone on boardwalks and beaches safe.
The campaign focuses on public and law enforcement awareness and reporting.
The Secure the Shore initiative is focusing on Monmouth, Ocean Atlantic and Cape May counties, with an emphasis on communities that attract large gatherings.
Anti-terror officials stress members of the public are truly on the front lines in preventing a possible attack by reporting anything that just doesn’t seem right.
According to Guy McCormick, the Monmouth County counterterrorism coordinator, the population of many beachfront communities will double during the summer, and crowds can be huge for special events and festivals, which increases the possibility of a problem, so everyone needs to stay alert.
“If you see anything you think is out of place or suspicious, just make the notification. Naturally, call your local police first and then law enforcement will take it from there," he said.
"People have to be aware of their surroundings at all times. It is not 40, 50 years ago.”
Which means always having a sense of where you are, and where different escape routes are in case there’s a sudden problem.
“That’s just part of the lifestyle that we now have to live with. It’s unfortunate but it’s true. And these are the things, you have to take the initiative upon yourself to do.
Joe McFadden, the Atlantic County critical infrastructure coordinator, agrees.
“If you see something that doesn’t look quite right, it needs to be reported — and we encourage people to report even the most minute little things.”
He points out a special training course in surveillance and detection is now being offered to local law enforcement personnel and security professionals in Atlantic City, teaching them “how to go into a crowd in a covert way and look for people that are there for reasons, not to be attending an event, but looking to carry out nefarious acts.”
He says that could include “placing suspicious packages, whether it be taking photographs or video of critical infrastructure, things along those lines.”
McFadden said “this is the new norm in our state [...] and that’s what everyone in the public needs to understand.”
Officials with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness have indicated they will be visiting boardwalks and shore businesses this summer.