By Briana Vannozzi
U.S. military bases are on heightened security levels this week — the highest since the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“We’re responding to these heightened conditions seriously and carefully and we’re ever vigilant to make sure that we can protect our population here on the base and the surrounding community,” said Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Installation Commander Col. James C. Hodges.
The directive comes from the U.S. Northern Command amid concerns over homegrown jihadists, and the use of social media to attract ISIS sympathizers on American soil and prompt attacks.
“We’re very definitely in a new phase in the global terrorist threat where the so-called lone wolf could strike at any moment,” said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“It’s actually been a series of things over the last couple of years that have caused us to have a greater level of concern. You could look at the Boston bombing, you could look at the incident that took place up in Ottawa,” said U.S. Northern Command Spokesman Capt. Jeff A. Davis.
Or the recent shooting in Garland, Texas outside a controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest.
Defense officials lifted the force protection condition to Bravo — the third of five levels of threat.
“We haven’t been at normal in a long time. Since 9/11 we’ve been in Alpha or higher,” Davis said.
The U.S. Northern Command won’t give specifics on the security measures, but they do include stricter inspections of vehicles and IDs on all military installations in the U.S.
“So the public may not see what we do behind the scenes but they may see some backups at the gate as we have a little more thorough checking coming in,” Hodges said.
“There’s a lot of police presence around. They stop you just for walking. It’s a lot more police,” said Alex Hexter of Wrightstown.
Those we spoke to who live and work near the military base weren’t concerned about a safety threat.
“I mean that’s just part of living here. That’s part of our decision to remain. But I mean it could be anywhere, but I think living by here is safer because I know more what’s going on,” Wrightstown resident Janine Hexter said.
Amy Kurpakus’ alterations shop has been a staple near the base for 35 years. Ninety-five percent of her work comes from the military.
“I feel safe here because I know the military what they look like,” Kurpakus said.
“I want our public to know and our people that live and work here at the base to know that we’re all the time, 24/7 ready and looking out, being vigilant and ready to respond,” Hodges said.
There’s no timeline for the increased security levels.
“Director [James] Comey of the FBI, Secretary [Jeh] Johnson from DHS have both been out talking publicly about this in the last week is frankly you don’t know what you don’t know,” Davis said.
They stress there’s no cause for alarm, but there is cause to be generally concerned, so they’re asking the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity.