While the analysts are still contemplating the implications of the killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani (see a profile here), the consensus is that Iran will try to exact revenge somewhere around the world. Targets associated with Jewish community have been in Iran’s crosshairs since the AMIA bombing in Argentina in 1994. In 2012, the incoming Executive Director of JCRC-NY and UJA-Federation’s Community Security Initiative focused on the threat to Jewish targets in the Wall Street Journal. Experts surmise that Iran and Hezbollah conducted surveillance on Israeli, Jewish, or pro-Western institutions, tourists, or high-profile individuals; or Israeli or Western government facilities and personnel. There were recent arrests of Iran-connected suspects here in New York and in Chicago last year.
While there are no known specific threats against New York or the Jewish community, we recommend that Jewish organizations should exercise heightened vigilance.
- 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. Many organizations, including synagogues, keep their doors locked until the visitor is identified and cleared. 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.
- Vehicle restraint systems. AKA bollards. Bollards are effective, but expensive and difficult to install. What’s worse, many synagogues and schools have “No Parking” zones directly outside their doors, leaving them vulnerable to ramming or vehicular-borne explosive devices. Our suggestion is for NYC organizations to contact their local Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCO) and ask for permission to park their own cars or school buses in the “No Parking” zones. Institutions with parking lots should consider parking “friendly” cars adjacent to your building. Find your NCO’s contact info here.
- Assess your cybersecurity. We have received numerous reports about ransomware attacks on Jewish organizations. Iran has significant cyberwarfare capabilities. This is a good time to review your hardware, software and human factor cybersecurity protections. Check out this great primer from NJ CCIC (NJ’s cybersecurity agency) for best practices.
- Report. Anyone who observes any suspicious behavior is encouraged to contact law enforcement immediately at 888-NYC-SAFE. If you see something, say something.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plan. 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.
- 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.
- Private security. Some police departments allow private parties to hire off-duty officers in uniform for events (in NYC, contact the Paid Detail Unit). Others use other off-duty officers (hired privately or through a security firm), retired officers or hire private security guards.
- Revisit and review your security plans and procedures.
- Active shooters. Have a plan and train your staff and key volunteers on its implementation. See JCRC’s dedicated active shooter webpage here.
- Bomb threats. Review your bomb threat procedures and make sure that your staffers (especially those who answer the phones) know what is expected of them. For a range of resources from top agencies, including the FBI and the DHS guidance click here.
- Suspicious packages. Is your staff aware that they should be on the lookout for suspicious packages? For USPS guidance click here.
We will be forwarding the NYPD SHIELD analysis as soon as it becomes available. Questions? Click here to send questions, comments and suggestions.
While our concerns about anti-Semitic attacks remain high, this week brought three new funding-related announcements that will help us to protect our institutions. We will notify our Security and Alert List when applications become available. To join our list, click here.
All those who wish to apply for upcoming grants should pre-qualify for the state or federal grant applications through the Grants Gateway Document Vault. Those having previously pre-qualified should check if their file is up-to-date. Get more help from JCRC-NY here. Also check out our dedicated webpage for more tips on how to successfully apply for grants.
- Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes.The JCRC-NY is deeply grateful to Governor for the latest awards of $10M in New York State security grants to schools (pre-school – 12) and museums. Grantees benefiting from this program applied in December 2018. The announced awards will help 207 institutions to protect their people and facilities against hateful attacks. As of December 23, 2019 there is no new application for the next round of grants and will notify subscribers to the Security and Alert List as soon as we learn of the availability of another round of grants.
- Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Featuring a major victory for at-risk nonprofits, Congress completed the FY 2020 Appropriations Bills and the President is expected to sign them into law. This year, the team led by Rob Goldberg of JFNA’s DC office (including JCRC-NY and UJA-Federation as active members), successfully secured $90 million for the program, a 50% increase over the FY 2019 level:
- $50 million will support NSGP-UA (Urban Area’s including NYC, Long Island and Westchester) projects; and
- $40 million will support NSGP-S projects (applicants outside the Urban Areas).
With the enactment of this legislation, the federal government will begin developing the FY 2020 program guidance and application (known as the Nonprofit Security Grant Program Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO)). Any at-risk 501(c)(3) organization (including houses of worship) can apply.
Our best guess is that applications will be available at the NY DHSES website in February or March. All NY organizations must apply through the process as outlined by NYDHSES. We will notify subscribers to the Security and Alert List as soon as we learn of the availability of another round of grants.
- NYC School Security Guard applications. Applications are open to any NYC private or parochial school with an enrollment of 300+ in the NYS Department of Education Basic Educational Data System (BEDS). The deadline to apply for this school year is January 17, 2020. More information, and links to the application, are available at https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dcas/business/non-public-school-security-reimbursement-program.page
When training for an active attacker incident (they are not all shooters) the experts agree that that there are three options: run, hide or, if your life depends on it, fight using whatever is at hand to stop the attacker (see JCRC-NY’s) dedicated webpage www.jcrcny.org/activeshooter for more information)
During many trainings we’ve cited a June 2017 incident in the London Bridge vicinity. After ramming pedestrians and totaling their van, the attackers jumped out and wielded knives. They entered the Boro Bistro and were soon met with a fusillade of pub stools and pint mugs. The terrorists promptly exited. QED. Use whatever is at hand.
During an attack last week in the London Bridge area, the well-trained staff of Fishmonger’s Hall knew what to do in the event of an attack. They saved lives when jumped into action fighting off the attacker, even using a 5 foot narwahl tusk and a fire extinguisher.
Thanks to Carly Maisels for this detailed account. When we train our constituencies for active attackers our goal should be to empower them so that they can do whatever needs to be done.
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) December 2, 2019
One of the surest ways to prevent a mass shooting is to identify potential threats before they actually attack. Often the threats are “insiders”.
James Densley, co-founder of the Violence Project and a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University, said researchers looked at factors in the lives of shooters, including mental health troubles, whether they considered suicide, and how they had access to guns. These findings were reported in the New York Times/Associated Press:
“For a start, we need to be a little bit more attuned to the fact that people are in crisis, and are looking for help, and perhaps aren’t getting it.” Researchers found that 98 percent of mass shooters were men and that 52 percent were white. The proportion of mass shooters who had been diagnosed with mental health conditions was only slightly higher than the general population, according to researchers.
Importantly, school mass shooters are most often insiders. Here are more recent tools to help with threat assessments:
- Protecting America’s Schools: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence. Ensuring safe learning environments for elementary and secondary school students, educators, administrators, and others is essential. Consider what role you can play in the larger efforts to make our schools safer.
- Making Prevention a Reality: Identifying, Assessing, and Managing the Threat of Targeted Attacks. This report, a practical guide on assessing and managing the threat of targeted violence, contains concrete strategies to help communities prevent these types of incidents. United States Department of Justice. Federal Bureau of Investigation.