Gift-wrapped package, suspicious activity trigger security calls

    Security around the country was beefed up Sunday in a nation on high alert. Ten years after the Sept. 11 attacks, with color codes assigned to every level of threat, what does a state of “heightened security” mean in the Delaware Valley?

    When a seemingly innocuous gift-wrapped package was found outside a Northwest Philadelphia synagogue Monday morning, administrators followed standard protocol–they evacuated the building, and delayed opening their day-care center.

    “A little while later, the police came. And a little while after that, the bomb squad showed up,” said Abby Weinberg, interim executive director of the Germantown Jewish Center.

    “It turned out to be … a large plate, actually a Seder plate, that somebody wanted to donate to the synagogue,” Weinberg said. “You know it was terribly inconvenient and just kind of sad actually, that this is the condition of our world, that these kinds of things have to happen.”

    Weinberg said the synagogue reacted exactly as it would have had the package been found any other day. She said especially in Jewish organizations, security concerns were a priority even before the attacks of 10 years ago.

    Around the country, however, people did seem to be on higher-than-normal alert. The Department of Homeland Security reported more calls of suspicious activity than usual. In Philadelphia and New Jersey, transit officials say they got more calls than normal about unattended packages.

    Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for SEPTA, said calls to the “See Something, Say Something” tip line spiked the week prior to the anniversary.

    “Usually we get a call every three days or so, but since last Wednesday we’ve received 14 calls,” Williams said.

    Since the advertising campaign was launched in 2004, Williams said none of the tips has revealed actual terrorist activity.

    “It’s hard to look at nothing as a success, but I’ll take it,” Williams said.

    Police in Trenton and Wilmington reported an average number of 911 calls over the weekend; Philadelphia officials saw a “slight up-tick” in calls reporting possible suspicious activity.

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