South Jersey nonprofits now eligible for state grants to beef up security

 U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (left) and New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Christopher Rodriguez announce $1 million in grants that will be made available to religious and community centers in South Jersey. The announcement was made at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (left) and New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness Christopher Rodriguez announce $1 million in grants that will be made available to religious and community centers in South Jersey. The announcement was made at the Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

New Jersey is helping nonprofits apply for grants to beef up security in its southern counties, following a rash of bomb threats against Jewish institutions earlier this year.

The state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP) outlined the new SECUR-NJ program during a community meeting Friday afternoon at the Betty and Milton Katz Jewish Community Center in Cherry Hill, which was evacuated in February due to a bomb threat. The program is offering nonprofits, including religious and community centers, in nine South Jersey counties a combined $1 million in grants to enhance security.

For years, JCCs and other organizations in South Jersey have complained that they are not eligible for federal security grants because the area is not considered a high enough risk for terrorism.

“We thought that if there’s a threat that exists throughout the state and we’re not providing resources, not only in terms of training and exercise and briefings, but also money for target hardening around these facilities, we’re not doing all that we can to try to mitigate that risk and mitigate that threat,” said New Jersey OHSP Director Christopher Rodriguez.

Each organization can apply for grants of up to $50,000 to install fencing, cameras, and other security measures.

“Anything that would physically harden the institution would be eligible under this grant program,” Rodriguez said.

The deadline to apply is May 24. An information session will be held on April 19 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Burlington County Office of Emergency Management in Westampton. So far, 66 organizations have signed up.

Rodriguez said the state’s new program will only go so far, and New Jersey officials, including Congressman Donald Norcross, are still pushing the federal government to change its policies.

Despite the fact South Jersey counties are included in the Philadelphia metropolitan area the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA assesses for security threats, Norcross said all of the federal security grant dollars have been going to Pennsylvania.

“We don’t want to take anything away from Pennsylvania,” Norcross said. “We just want to make sure that New Jersey is included.”

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