Police chief urges churches to boost security

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POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Local church leaders are mulling a question they thought they would never need to consider: How to keep their flocks safe from the threat of lone wolves.

“Churches are a soft target, we all know it, it’s a sad reality that we live with today that we even have to bring [church leaders] out here tonight and have this conversation,” Point Beach Police Chief Joseph Michigan told an audience of around 30 church elders from the borough and neighboring towns at a forum at borough hall.

On Monday, Nov. 20, Chief Michigan and Mayor Stephen Reid invited officials from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to speak with church leaders about ways to keep their churches, and more importantly their congregations, safe.

“The goal is not to make our places of worship an armed camp, but the goal is to talk in very general terms about ideas to make our places of worship safe,” said Lt. John Paige, of the state Office of Homeland Security.

For starters, the lieutenant advised church leaders in attendance to create a security committee at their church, and to create plans in the event there is an active shooter situation.

During times of worship, it was also recommended that churches have ushers keep an eye out for suspicious characters.

“Almost every place has an usher or a greeter that knows everyone,” Lt. Paige said.

“Part of good security would be to get ushers and greeters, who are there anyway, to be your eyes and ears and look for suspicious activity.

For more on this story, read The Ocean Star—on newsstands Friday or online in our e-Edition.