New Jersey Police Add More Security to Houses of Worship After Week of Church Incidents and Tragedies in Paris, New York, and Sri Lanka Churches

Father Jose Muralles distributes incense during the Spanish Easter Sunday Mass at the gym of Bergen Arts & Science Charter School across the street from Holy Trinity in Hackensack on 04/21/19. Mitsu Yasukawa/Northjersey.com

The morning after a Hasbrouck Heights man allegedly walked into St. Patrick’s Cathedral with four gallons of gasoline, lighter fluid and lighters, Wayne police issued a directive to all its officers: Make your presence known in all the township’s houses of worship this weekend.

Patrolling is normally increased for religious holidays, but after the incident in New York City and the sudden fire that nearly consumed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Wayne police decided to include its investigative unit in the order.

“The goal is not to interrupt what people are doing; the goal is just to let them see us and know that we’re there and if they have any questions or concerns, know that we’re there to answer them,” said Capt. Laurence Martin of the Wayne police.

On Easter Sunday, hours after a series of coordinated bombings targeted Catholic worshipers attending Easter Mass in Sri Lanka, Martin issued another directive telling officers to be aware of international events and be prepared to speak to worshipers about them.

“It’s terrible that we have to have these conversations, but that’s the nature of the world that we live in today, unfortunately,” Martin said.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbed into the hundreds, both plainclothes investigative officers and uniformed officers kept watch at churches and other houses of worship in Wayne. They rode around in parking lots, walked around church properties and tried to blend in with congregations attending services.

“You don’t want to go in with lights and sirens,” Martin said. “We’re trying to integrate into the crowds in a subtle mode.”

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SOURCE: North Jersey Record, Svetlana Shkolnikova