Category Archive: Jewish Security

During Pesach, heightened vigilance is required

Posted on April 10, 2017

EVENT ASSESSMENT

While there are no reports indicating a specific threat to New York City or Jewish institutions during the Passover holiday, religious institutions and religious figures remain attractive targets for multiple terrorist groups—to include al-Qa’ida and the Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham(ISIS)—and their adherents. Al-Qa’ida and ISIS have consistently called for attacks against Israel and Jewish interests and recent propaganda from both groups have urged sympathizers to carry out attacks using a range of tactics, including vehicle ramming, edged weapons, improvised explosive devices, and Molotov cocktails.

Terrorist groups and their sympathizers have targeted synagogues and other Jewish locations in the past, both abroad and here in the United States. In December 2016, Austrian authorities disrupted an alleged plot to target a synagogue on the first night of Hanukkah. Two individuals, one of whom was known to authorities, were questioned by police and found to be carrying knives intended for use against the rabbi and his congregants. In May of 2014, ISIL-linked French operative Mehdi Nemmouche opened fire with an assault rifle on a Jewish museum in Brussels, Belgium, resulting in the deaths of four people. In 2016, there were several foiled attack attempts at Jewish institutions in the United States. On April 29, James Gonzalo Medina, a convert to Islam, was arrested by the FBI for attempting to bomb the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Florida during services on the seventh day of Passover. The FBI also foiled the plot of Mahin Khan, a self-described “American jihadist,” after he sought to build pipe and pressure cooker bombs.

Khan considered several targets, including the JCC in Tucson, Arizona. He was arrested in July 2016 after he contacted an individual he believed to be an ISIS fighter.

In addition to the threat from foreign terrorist organizations, domestic terrorism increasingly threatens minority groups and institutions in the United States. In February 2017, a South Carolina white supremacist was arrested after an undercover investigation indicated that he was planning to attack minorities in the local area, and had by that point purchased a weapon to do so. The suspect, Benjamin McDowell, allegedly wanted to replicate Dylann Roof’s mass casualty attack and made a number of online threats against a local synagogue. He further made public statements in support of violent white supremacist ideology, according to press reports.

Hate crimes continue to rise around the United States, a number of which have been anti-Semitic in nature. In addition to the desecration of grave sites at cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis, the Anti-Defamation League stated that there have been at least 166 bomb threats made to Jewish institutions across 38 states in the U.S. and three Canadian provinces since January 2017, none of which resulted in the discovery of explosives. On March 23, 2017, 18-year-old Michael Ron David Kadar, a dual US-Israeli citizens, was arrested by Israel on suspicion of making more than 100 bomb threats against JCCs in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand over the past six months. Kadar’s motive remains unknown. In St. Louis, Juan Thompson was arrested for making at least eight threats to Jewish institutions around the country, including the Jewish History Museum in Manhattan, and Jewish schools and a local JCC.

Despite the arrests of two individuals associated with the multiple, unfounded bomb threats, it is probable that other like-minded individuals may seek to carry out similar threats against Jewish locations given the extensive high-profile media coverage these threats received.

The series of anonymous, unfounded bomb threats against multiple targets was likely intended to spread fear, create considerable disruptions to business and people’s lives, and generate financial costs. Bomb threats can also create soft targets; evacuations of large groups of people into the open offer possible attackers a large, predictable target in a desired location vulnerable to a variety of attacks, to include active shooters, improved explosive devices, edged weapons, and vehicle-ramming assaults.

If You See Something, Say Something – 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233)

New York State Security Funding

Posted on April 10, 2017

This year’s New York State budget includes the following allocation. Obviously, the details are still pending.

“Capital Projects Funds – Other Capital Project Fund Program Improvement/Change Purpose For competitive grants to provide safety and security projects at nonpublic schools, community centers and day care facilities at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.

Provided that an assessment of facilities at risk may include, but not be limited to, considerations of the vulnerabilities of the organization based on its location and membership, and the potential consequences of a hate crime or attack at the facility. The amount appropriated herein may be transferred or suballocated to the division of homeland security and emergency services to accomplish the intent of this appropriation.”

Note: the language “considerations of the vulnerabilities of the organization based on its location and membership” differs from the classic definition of vulnerability,”any weakness that can be exploited by an aggressor, or in a non-terrorist environment, make an asset susceptible to hazard damage. (FEMA, Building Design for Homeland Security)”, i.e., gaps in physical security. Location and membership are usually considered in a threat analysis in the classic security equation: risk=threat + vulnerability + consequences.

The language gives DHSES responsibility for the grants. Stay tuned for more information.

To evacuate or not to evacuate? That is the question.

With over 150 hoax bomb threats reported, you should have already have a plan. However, the ongoing threats should serve as a reminder to review  our ongoing guidance, make use of the resources and implement the recommendations, as appropriate.

Should we be worried? At this time the experts conclude that the series of
incidents referencing threats against schools, Jewish facilities and businesses likely do not represent a credible terrorist threat for two reasons:

  1. terrorists’ rarely provide operational insight into their planning, and
  2. the fact that nearly all hoaxes in the United States are conducted by criminal actors or those instigating a nuisance prank.

What are my options? Many security experts question the wisdom of the policy of evacuation. After all, a terrorist could trigger an evacuation of a facility with a simple phone call and then attack the evacuees in multiple ways. On the other hand, someone could place 100 hoax bomb threat calls, but actually plant a bomb on the 101st. (In rebuttal, why make a warning phone call when simply planting the bomb works).

The bottom line is that there is no perfect solution, so all institutions should think about their options and consult with local law enforcement in the absence of the pressure of an actual emergency.

  • Set up a meeting with your local police to review and discuss your options.
  • There is no perfect solution. This is an issue that should be raised at a security committee or board meeting. Remember, your reputation is at stake and your decision may create liability issues.
  • Identify possible options leading to a sheltered evacuation, i.e., one that minimizes the dangers of an attack on evacuees:
    • Is your parking lot a relatively safe area? Could you evacuate there and stand an appropriate distance from your facility? Is there a sheltered path to an adjoining building? Can the local police establish a perimeter to protect the evacuees?
    • Develop appropriate protective measures based on your facility’s characteristics. For example, some facility managers have identified areas (e.g., a pool or gym) that are not cluttered and therefore, easy to check for bombs. If the architecture of the building is engineered so that the building would not likely collapse on those inside, one option is to evacuate people to these safe (or more accurately, safer) places (HT to Steve Levy of ISA).
  • Communicate, early and often. If you decide not to evacuate, some stakeholders will question your judgement and try to second-guess you. A well-planned sheltered evacuation option is easy to explain and to show that your highest priority is the safety of your stakeholders. Whatever you choose, have pre-written messages ready to go should you become a target.

No one can give you a perfect answer. Identify your options, consult with the best people possible and keep your people safe.

Attacks on Jews in the U.S. 1969-2016

From: Terrorist Incidents and Attacks Against Jews and Israelis in the United States, 1969-2016, Community Security Service

From: Terrorist Incidents and Attacks Against Jews and Israelis in the United States, 1969-2016, Community Security Service.

Take a look at the important new CSS publication, Terrorist Incidents and Attacks Against Jews and Israelis in the United States, 1969-2016by our talented, good friend, Yehudit Barsky, with a forward by another friend, Mitchell D. Silber. The publication supplements the JCRC’s own Selective Threat Scan which was designed to assist Nonprofit Security Grant Program applicants complete the “Threat” and “Consequences” sections of the Investment Justification.

Here’s the Executive Summary of the document which aligns with JCRC’s ongoing advice:

It is vital that the American Jewish community, together with our law enforcement partners, learn the lessons of the past, understand the nature of the challenges arrayed against it, and take the proper precautions to ensure that violent acts against Jews and Jewish institutions can be prevented in the future.

  • Jewish targets often serve as precursors to larger attacks: Perpetrators of well-known larger attacks, such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were first involved in anti-Jewish incidents.
  • Awareness is critical: In many of these incidents, perpetrators conducted pre-operational surveillance. Training and engagement of community members to detect suspicious activity is thus essential.
  • A need to invest in community security infrastructure: The Jewish community can ill afford passivity and apathy against security threats. The community should broaden its understanding of what effective security entails, and invest in initiatives that provide tangible results. Foremost amongst these strategies is ensuring community members have the training and capacity to assist in securing their own communities, and partnering more closely with law enforcement agencies.

Unfortunately, much as we do not care to admit it to ourselves, the threats are real; there have been too many incidents to deny that. Now in the second decade of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in an era where those who promote anti-Jewish rhetoric and instigation have the technical tools to reach a broader audience in less time than ever before. In fact, as recently as March 2016, the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) publicly encouraged its followers to attack Jews and their allies, “wherever they find them.”

It is vital that the American Jewish community, together with our law enforcement partners, learn the lessons of the past, understand the nature of the challenges arrayed against it, and take the proper precautions to ensure that violent acts against Jews and Jewish institutions can be prevented in the future.

Click here for the full report.

Armed or unarmed security, what’s best?

The answer is, it depends. The question comes up at almost every one of our security training sessions. Honestly, there are both advantages and disadvantages of either option. Guns and Security: the Risks of Arming Security Officers in the December issue of Security Management (a publication of the security industry trade association, ASIS) discusses many of the issues that must be considered.

Each organization must carefully weigh the pluses and minuses themselves, as applied to their building, their constituencies and their culture. Since this decision could possibly affect your brand, your reputation and/or your liability, it is advisable to include your board of directors in the decision. If your organization is leaning towards armed security, we suggest four “best practices”:

  1. Hire any armed security guard on the basis of their experience, training and judgement rather than their weapon. If you hire e.g., an off-duty/retired law enforcement officer, you are hiring much more than their gun.
  2. Deploy armed guards as one element of a multi-layer security plan. If a determined intruder is targeting a specific institution, a solo guard (armed or not) may become the first, unfortunate target without any opportunity to even his/her weapon.
  3. Contract with an outside firm. Given the documented risks associated with armed guards (outlined in the Security Magazine article), consider contracting with an independent vendor and make sure that they are responsible for the supervision of armed guards, all aspects of the armed guard’s ongoing training and compliance with governmental training, licensing and other requirements.
  4. Discuss your decision with your insurer. Whether the armed guard is, or is not, your employee you may have some liability and/or named in any lawsuit. Make sure that your insurer knows about your decision and that your are appropriately and adequately covered. (n.b., Some institutions employ an outside security consultant to manage their employees. A discussion between the security consultant and the insurer may assuage the concerns raised by the insurer).

NYPD does have a Paid Detail Unit which provides officers to perform off-duty, uniformed security work within New York City for approximately $45/hour.  Click here for more information and contact details. Of course, the above recommendations still apply.

Quick tips: What should your guard(s) be doing?
no-potted-plantGuards should not be merely uniformed potted plants adorning your lobby. Rather, they should be an important and active component of your overall security plan.

If you have a single guard, his/her logical priority is access control (see our suggestions on how to develop an access control policy here). At the same time, don’t lose sight of other important functions, including:

  • Vigilance. While they are on duty they can observe what is going on outside your building and monitor CCTV, possibly leading to the early detection of hostile surveillance or imminent hostile acts. See our suggestions for detecting hostile surveillance here.
  • Walk-arounds. Remember the Chelsea bombs? They were hidden in a trash container and a suitcase. If someone planted a device in your garbage can would anyone find it? One best practice is to have your guard tour your facility, inside and out, looking for something that “Just doesn’t look right”.
  • Notifications.Your guard should be given defined protocol and procedures if something “Just doesn’t look right” : who to notify (e.g., senior staff, general alarm), how to act and what else to do.
  • Crisis management. A well trained guard should be able to follow the protocols and procedures defined by you. They should be able to support responses such as bomb threats, evacuations and/or sheltering-in-place.

The security management industry calls instructions for guards, “post orders” which clearly outline the duties, responsibilities, and expectations of security guards. For example, your post orders should clearly set forth your access control policies and define the areas of your property that should be included in a walk-around and their time and frequency (e.g., upon arrival and upon returning from lunch).