Guarini Institute panel discusses NJ’s readiness for disasters, terrorism

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The Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership held a panel discussion on homeland security needs in New Jersey, particularly its interoperability among federal, state and local departments for disaster preparedness and counter-terrorism readiness.

The panel opened with Chief Preparedness Bureau, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Alison Tarnopol responding to moderator, Hudson County View’s chief news correspondent John Heinis, on New Jersey’s preparedness for natural disasters.

“We take a look at our current infrastructure, take a look at the information of what we have, identify the gaps of vulnerability of what we have and make recommendations to fill those gaps. It’s an ongoing process,” she said.

Tarnopol explained that there is a conscious effort to reach out to local partners and ask “hey where are you, what help you need, what resources you have and what we can do as a state with our local partners to ensure you that you can close your resiliency gap.”

As for as intelligence sharing, Jersey City Director of Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security Greg Kierce explained that “we have to work together. The main thing is cooperation of all the people.”

“I can tell you from my law enforcement experience that, 90 percent of the time, when these cases are opened, it comes from locals.”

On the topic on prevention from truck and car terrorist attacks that have occurred internationally to occur in locally, Hoboken Freeholder Anthony Romano (D-5) mentioned the process of “target hardening, an evaluation done with the cooperation with the office of homeland security to identify these different targets,” is a preventative method.

The biggest question of the night was regarding the cooperation of the Muslim Community with Homeland Security and the Jersey City Policy Department since they have stereotyped by the current President of the United States.

“We are not here for that, we are here to make a connection”, explained JCPD Lieutenant Brian Cahill, also a task force officer for the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

A member of the public asked a similar question mentioning how a few undocumented residents may have witnessed a crime but fear coming forward because of President Trump.

Cahill explained that Jersey City is a sanctuary city, and stated “I don’t really believe that there’s going to be any Jersey City policy officers looking to bring somebody to a prosecution because of their status, whether they are legal or illegal. I think we need to educate the community better on it.”

The discussion was also moderated Guarini Institute Executive Director Dr. Leila Sadeghi.