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Bergen County’s top public safety leaders each told
nprecedented 24-hour patrols of Bergen County’s religious and ethnic community facilities will continue for the indefinite future, amid a manhunt for whoever is responsible for throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of a Rutherford rabbi’s bedroom.
Bergen County’s: Prosecutor John L. Molinelli; Police Chief Brian Higgins; Sheriff Michael Saudino
(CLIFFVIEW PILOT photos)
Bergen County Police Chief Brian Higgins and Sheriff Michael Saudino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT they are committed to doing all they can not only to help catch those responsible but also to protect the community in what Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli called an historic operation.
“Combined, the county police chief and the sheriff can bring a tremendous amount of manpower to this,” said Molinelli, who coordinated the proactive initiative. “And they can do it in many cases within normal patrol functions.”
Any additional salary or overtime costs incurred by Bergen County Police or the Sheriff’s Department for the detail “I’ve got covered,” the prosecutor said during an interview with CLIFFVIEW PILOT shortly after announcing the move.
“This is a very good next step in increasing protection of the community but also increasing people’s sense of security,” Higgins said.
Higgins also confirmed that he his senior officers have already reached out to various community groups, including the United Jewish Appeal.
“We want them to know that we’re here for them,” he told
. “We consider it our responsibility and we take it very seriously.”
Saudino repeated a promise he made to those groups ot “count me in.”
“ It’s important that we all do our part during times like this, so I will glady do whatever is necessary,” the sheriff told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “We’re committing our resources, as always, toward public safety.”
The idea of having what are both sizable squadrons of patrol units seemingly everywhere bolstered a net that includes local and State Police as well as federal investigators.
And although none of the law enforcement officials who spoke to
within less than a half-hour after the announcement would admit it publicly, there is a growing buzz among their ranks that the net is closing in on those behind the bias attacks.
In a statement released to the Friday afternoon, Molinelli wrote:
“The patrols will be established in accordance with patrol strategies to be devised by William Stallone, Critical Infrastructure Coordinator with the Bergen County Prosecutors’ Office, and be performed operationally by patrol units from both the BCPD and BCSD,” wrote Molinelli (at left), in an emailed attachment to the media.
“All Bergen Police and Sheriff units will work in conjunction with the municipal police departments throughout the County, and all actions taken thereon shall continue to be under the authority of each Chief/Ranking Officer in each department so that the operation moves smoothly across all 69 municipalities.”
Other departments beyond Bergen’s borders, urged on by Gov. Christie, are taking their own measures to protect “soft targets.”
“Union City police have posted an officer 24 hours a day ’till further notice at the Yeshiva located at 3400 New York Avenue,” a Hudson County law enforcement officer with direct knowledge of the detail told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon. “There are no specific threats. It is a response to the Bergen County incidents.”
Molinelli, Gov. Christie and other law enforcement leaders throughout the county and the state have expressed outrage at what amount to terroristic attacks, the most recent when someone threw several incendiary devices at a Rutherford rabbi’s home, one of which was a Molotov cocktail that crashed through his window and landed in his bedroom.
Rabbi Nosson Schuman extinguished the flames, saving his wife, parents and five children in their apartment above Congregation Beth El on Montross Avenue. Meetings have been called to try and calm the community — while also calling others to action.
“This is certainly a hate crime. This is certainly a bias crime,” Molinelli said this week. “We’re no longer looking at this as something unique to the Jewish community. It is something that is substantially affecting the Bergen County community and northern New Jersey.”
In fact, the prosecutor said that the perpetrator(s), once caught, will be charged with attempted murder, because i
nvestigators have no doubt that Schuman was specifically targeted in the 4:30 a.m. attack.
On the other hand, investigators don’t believe that a series of graffiti taggings of swastikas and other reprehensible symbols on or near Bergen County temples in recent weeks are connected to the more aggressive, extremely more serious assault. The graffiti incidents include three in Fair Lawn and one at Van Saun Park in nearby Paramus that bear similar markings.
However, they are looking closely at a possible connection to a small arson fire set behind Congregation K’hal Adath Jeshurun — also in Paramus.
As CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported exclusively on Wednesday, the FBI and ATF are investigating both arsons.
“If those devices were meant for the temple or the school [downstairs], they wouldn’t have been thrown up at the second floor,” a law enforcment source told CLIFFVIEW PILOT shortly after Wednesday morning’s firebombing. “A few of the devices landed on the roof, and one broke through the bedroom window glass and landed inside.”Rabbi Nosson Schuman
Although people commonly know of Molotov cocktails as bottles filled with gas and ignited by a kerosene-soaked wick stuffed into the mouth, some devices instead involve a chemical or gel and gasoline mix that ignites when the container breaks.
Talks are being held among various groups, and Gov. Christie has sent representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, to reassure people that all is being done and to prompt discussions aimed at easing some of the anxiety.
Police are also urging citizens to look out for their neighbors.
“Please tell people to be careful,” a law enforcement officer told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon.
“Increased patrols alone are not the answer unless we increase the dialogue amongst the congregants, between the houses of worship and between the houses of worship and their neighbors.
“All the gadgets in the world installed on the building are useless if people do not follow the established security protocols established by the house of worship or if they prop open a side door without permission,” he said. “EVERYONE should be vigilant.”
Molinelli in a side note to his statement today praised Higgins and Saudino for their involvement.
“All Community and religious centers will benefit from the strategy, including Synagogues, Mosques, Churches and other houses of worship,” the prosecutor wrote.
“Any group of facility having questions regarding the initiative are free to contact the Bergen County Police, Bergen County Sheriff or the Bergen County Critical Infrastructure Coordinator, Bill Stallone at 201-226-5570.”
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