Devastating attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh
Our hearts and prayers go out for the dead, wounded and survivors — all innocent victims of a blatantly anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We are deeply grateful to the first responders who ran towards the bullets and prevented the carnage from getting any worse. The messages of solidarity, hope and revulsion to anti-Semitism offered by many public officials and community leaders reassure us of the basic goodness of our nation. Still, recent events reinforce our ongoing concern that the hatred and violence borne by homegrown violent extremists can stem from many sources and motivations. When any group or faith is at risk, we are all at risk.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the NYPD deployed heavy weapons teams, including the officers from the Critical Response Command and the Strategic Response Team, to houses of worship across the City to supplement the patrol cars in every command making additional visits to reassure congregants. We have been in touch with the NYPD, the DHS and the FBI. Currently, there is no nexus to New York or any credible, direct threat to New York or the broader Jewish community. However, the confluence of mail bombs and the Tree of Life attack could be a catalyst for other copycat attacks.
According to NYPD SHIELD, “active shooters often choose to target religious locations/houses of worship during peak times and may make use of a wide range of tactics and weapons in attacks including, but not limited to, improvised explosive devices, assault rifles, improvised incendiary devices, and knives. Religious locations/houses of worship must take into account a diversity of tactics in preparing plans and response scenarios for potential crises and routinely familiarize all staff and students with emergency-specific lock down, shelter-in-place, and evacuation procedures.”
- Report. Anyone who observes any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact law enforcement immediately at 888-NYC-SAFE. If you see something, say something.
- Overview. Look at the recent DHS publication, Mass Gatherings: Security Awareness for Soft Targets and Crowded Places, can be a great template for your security planning process. Virtually every suggestion in the document can be applied to your planning process. Organizations should “Connect, Plan, Train, and Report”. Applying these four steps in advance of a possible incident or attack can help better prepare us to proactively think about the role that our whole community plays in the safety and security of our organizations.
- Connect. The first step in the process is to “Connect”. You should have an ongoing relationship with your local police precinct. They should know when your services and programs are scheduled. If you don’t know your local police officials, the JCRC can help. Click here to contact us.
- If you have not already done so, get a security assessment of your building to identify your vulnerabilities. Click here for some suggestions and sources.
- Download Potential Indicators, Common Vulnerabilities, and Protective Measures: Religious Facilities and Hometown Security Report Series: Houses of Worship for suggestions and ideas.
- Active Shooter response. Many of our contacts attended active shooter trainings offered in the New York area last week. If you could not attend either session or another training, click here for the JCRC-NY dedicated Active Shooter Resources webpage that includes resources from many sources. If you want to arrange a training the JCRC can help, based on available resources. Click here to contact us.
- Access control. If an attacker can walk into a building unchallenged bad things will happen. No unauthorized person should be able to enter your building at any time. The first step is to develop a feasible access control policy (see our Sample Building Access Policies & Procedures) and to keep any door that cannot be monitored and controlled locked.
- Security personnel. Guards at synagogues vary in quality, but generally, almost anything is better than nothing. Volunteers are good, trained volunteers are better. Uniformed guards (e.g., identifiable shirts, vests, blazers) can be deterrents. Guards who are off-duty or retired police or corrections officers bring experience, training and judgement. To be effective, any guard has to have clear instructions and procedures (see below). 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. For a discussion of armed vs. unarmed guards see our post Armed or unarmed security, what’s best? and a guest post here.
|Quick tips: What should your guard(s) be doing?|
|Guards 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:
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).