Nonprofit and other religious facilities in 12 North and Central Jersey counties are currently able to get federal Department of Homeland Security grants for security enhancements because they fall within the DHS definition of regions most at risk for terrorism.

Gov. Chris Christie has announced nonprofit groups in the remaining nine Central and South Counties that have been excluded from such grants will now be eligible to get state grant money to help protect themselves.

During a news conference at the Hughes Justice Center in Trenton, Christie said the current situation is unacceptable.

“As we’ve seen in attacks throughout the world, terrorism knows no borders and our adversaries do not discriminate on the basis of what county you might live in within the state of New Jersey,” he said.

Christie noted his administration, along with the state’s Congressional delegation has lobbied for years to have the Department of Homeland Security change its eligibility rules, but they have not.

“In light of recent threats against Jewish community centers, I am announcing the availability of an additional million dollars in SECUR New Jersey grants for nonprofit organizations and religious institutions determined to be at high risk of attack,” he said.

SECUR is an acronym for Security Enhancements Countering Unmitigated Risk.

The money will be earmarked for use in Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Salem, and Warren Counties.

“By making these additional resources available it’s another really crucial step in our efforts increase security for everybody in New Jersey,” said Christie.

Chris Rodriguez, the director of the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said nonprofit applicants, such as religious facilities, private schools, community centers and hospitals, will be eligible for an award up to $50,000 and no matching funds are required.

Chris Rodriguez. (David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ)

“We want to make this money available to harden those facilities, so people who go there in the face of these threats feel safe and secure,” he said.

Rodriguez noted even a small amount of grant money can make a big difference.

“What we’ve seen certainly in cases of homegrown violent extremism, is that small security enhancements can act as a deterrent for people to conduct attacks.”

He pointed out there have been threats and suspicious activity recently at several Jewish facilities, but other groups in the past have also been targeted, including Islamic centers and churches.

“We encourage them to report these incidents to local law enforcement, which allows us to then conduct investigations, work with local and county law enforcement agencies and the FBI to run down those incidents,” he said.

Christie said grant money will be used for surveillance equipment and other physical security enhancements.

“We’ll help pay for security measures to help keep them and their organization safer, and give their members additional piece of mind when they’re attending events put on by these groups,” said the Governor.

The state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness will host a grant information session on April 19, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Burlington County Office of Emergency Management in Westampton .

Grant awards will be distributed by June 30.

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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