National Security and Drug Prevention efforts being ramped up in New Jersey
Following the tragic police shooting in Dallas,Texas last week along with the shooting of a suspect who drew a gun on officers in Toms River, New Jersey officials seek to nullify this violence and curb the growing heroin and opioid epidemic here in the Garden State.
Congressman Tom MacArthur, who represents New Jersey's 3rd district called the Dallas shooting "a terrible tragedy," and spoke to the media and local law-enforcement Friday morning during a previously scheduled meeting to address issues of National Security and protection for police officers.
"Our men and women in blue deserve to have their lives protected and I'm grateful for what you (they) do," said MacArthur addressing law-enforcement as well. "I have co-sponsored a bill called the 'Thin Blue Line Act' and we are trying to move this quickly in congress."
He adds it deals exactly with what happened in Dallas on Thursday night.
"It makes it a more serious crime to target, kill, or attempt to kill a police officer or first responder," said MacArthur. "It makes no difference between killing an officer in the course of their duties or targeting them just because they're a police officer. It makes it as if your killing a federal officer, it's the same kind of penalty."
MacArthur adds this bill is a necessity to prevent criminals from "committing terrible acts of violence against our police officers," saying that he will do whatever he can to support law-enforcement officials and first responders.
"Unfortunately this incident everybody's aware of in Dallas is certainly going to have an impact on all of us...(in) making our officers safe," said Ocean County Sheriff Mike Mastronardy. "We should always be proactive and alert but these situations...it looks like the world is certainly changing and we're not immune."
With a power plant and entertainement attractions nearby, Mastronardy has other concerns as well.
"When it comes to terrorism, the biggest thing that keeps me awake at night is the Lakewood situation," said Mastronardy. "You have 600,000 people in this county and 100,000 are Orthodox. We have over 170 private schools in 24 square miles and the Lakewood PD is quite busy up there."
These concerns are among many on the minds of many in the Garden State.
"When I travel around south Jersey, I hear a lot from people about safety concerns," said MacArthur. "Everyday it seems like there is another attack in the world. Obviously ISIS is what's fueling that."
He adds they're working on a number of things to address violent and Islamic Extremism.
"Last week the DHS announced $10-million in funds for countering violent extremism," said MacArthur. "This is a grant program that local law enforcement can apply for and I want to encourage our police forces across the district...this is an important grant program that we can maybe get funds for."
MacArthur adds he has been in support of legislation to provide additional bullet proof vests for law enforcement and to increase funding for that.
But when it comes to foreign policy, he believes something needs to be done.
"ISIS is beginning to wane to some degree but they're getting more dangerous as they lose territory and we're going to see more attacks around the world," said MacArthur. "My fear has been for the 18 months that I've been in congress...(is) that we have a foreign policy that's frequently lagging reality. Our enemies don't fear us, our allies don't know when they can trust us, and we're often too late in responding to things."
In the past week they've introduced legislation called the 'Homeland Safety and Security Act', which MacArthur says counters Islamic Radicalization in the U.S. ,revokes passports of known extremists, assesses existing security vulnerabilities, and prevents potential terrorists from purchasing weapons.
"Prosecutor (Robert) Bernardi and I share the Burlington County Anti-Terrorism Task Force," said Burlington County Sheriff Jean Stanfield. "We started this in 2001 right after 9/11 and it's a multi-disciplinary group with law enforcement, fire services, OEM, health department, (and) red cross."
She adds they've done numerous exercises relating to this task force and responded to a number of incidents since inception.
"Currently we are working on a program called 'T.A.P.'...Terrorism Awareness Program for the public," said Stanfield. "We did it years ago when we first started this group but we're revitalizing it trying to educate the public on what to look for and how to respond."
With the growing concern surrounding the heroin epidemic here in New Jersey, MacArthur says they've made progress.
"Last month we voted on 18 bills that came out of our bi-partisan task force to combat the heroin epidemic," said MacArthur.
He adds all of them passed and have gone to the senate.
At the shore efforts are also being ramped up to protect and educate residents on the dangers of drugs and the growing problem here in New Jersey.
After attending the N.S.A. or National Sheriff's Association, Ocean County Sheriff Mike Mastronardy says there is a plan in place.
"There was some discussion and their may be an effort to get some sheriffs from the northeast to the border, Cochise County (Arizona) particularly," said Mastronardy. "Warren Buffet's son Howard has a foundation, he wants to expose what's happening and it's not the immigration situation. There's no longer people coming across with families but more or less it's the cartels taking over."
Meanwhile in Burlington County efforts are also being driven towards education.
"The heroin epidemic is something that is paramount in a lot of our towns," said Stanfield. "Our Riverside Police Department has a tremendous program, an intervention program to deal with the heroin epidemic and it's very novel."
Stanfield is encouraged by the efforts of law enforcement to curb the use of heroin and other opioids in the county.
In the end MacArthur has an outgoing message for both law enforcement and residents here in New Jersey and beyond.
"We need to stand united...it's not just a local effort, or a county, or a state, or a federal effort, it's all of us together of securing our communities and securing our nation" said MacArthur.