By Erin Delmore
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security say they’re seeing increased “chatter” — especially among ISIS leadership and supporters.
“The chatter has been greater than anytime since 9/11,” Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.
Over the last year, the group’s made repeated calls for violence — and they’re urging supporters to take advantage of the July 4 weekend — which this year coincides with the holy month of Ramadan. Two New Jersey residents were charged with conspiring to join ISIS overseas last month. One left to allegedly join ISIS in May and the group claimed credit for multiple attacks in the Middle East last week that left scores dead in a rash of violence.
Law enforcement is boosting security levels around the state this holiday weekend. And while officials say there’s no specific threat, they’re urging the public to keep an eye out.
“If we see a suspicious unattended package tell it to the nearest cop. If you see somebody on the forth of July when it’s 80 degrees wearing an overcoat and sweating and acting suspicious, tell the nearest law enforcement officer,” said MG Security Services LLC President Manny Gomez.
The State Police is deploying an additional 120 troopers and increasing checks on suspicious vehicles, bags and people.
Police boats are equipped with radiation detectors. So are aerial patrols and some police are even wearing the devices on their belts.
“Trust me we are well equipped with radiation detectors, with monitors, our bomb sniffing dogs are ready to go. Everything that you can imagine we have available to us. What we need is the public’s cooperation,” Fontoura said.
Heavy travel over the holiday week presents its own challenges for law enforcement. AAA Expects over a million people to travel in excess of 50 miles of home this holiday weekend in New Jersey. The overwhelming majority, nearly 85 percent of people will travel by car and the remainder is split between planes, trains and buses.
Travelers say the security warnings won’t affect their plans.
“Keep going what what I do. Don’t let much get in the way of me,” said John Evans.
“It’s always better to feel safe even if it takes a little bit extra time to get to where you’re going. Or if there’s an issue where there no access to some areas I’m totally fine with that and I think everybody else should,” Abdelbagy Abushanab said.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Robert Pilotti said.
“It’s supposed to be a fun time that you celebrate our independence but it’s also a time that there could be threats from ISIS or whatever so I think it’s good to beef up security so we’re not a target,” Dan Faires said.
Over the past few months the Department of Homeland Security has enhanced screenings at international airports and raised the threat level at U.S. military bases. Law enforcement officials are urging the public to stay alert and report any suspicious activity.