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OFFICIAL NEWS RELEASE

 
 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Sgt. Kevin Rehmann 882-2000 x6515
Sgt. Gerald Lewis x6516
Tpr. Stephen Jones x6513

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 12, 2003


 
 
State Police Superintendent and Attorney General Hold Domestic Preparedness Colloquium

     West Trenton - State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes and Attorney General Peter Harvey today held a "State of the State Police" colloquium focused on the challenges and capabilities of the agency in its duties regarding the state's homeland security efforts. The meeting was an in-depth status report to legislators and key government leaders on the readiness of New Jersey's lead responder to terrorism. It was also an opportunity for education and dialogue aimed at improving statewide preparedness for disasters and major incidents.

     The idea grew out of Colonel Fuentes' travel throughout the state. "I perceived in our state's leaders a genuine thirst for information, which is crucial to developing a candid assessment of our state's emergency preparedness," said the Colonel. "This meeting got us all on the same page so we can hopefully move forward with one set of goals and shared priorities."

     Attorney General Peter Harvey addressed the audience concerning the Domestic Preparedness Task Force, setting the stage for five State Police experts who outlined the programs being announced to interdict precursor crimes that support terrorism activity.

     "New Jersey has come a long way in two years. We owe a debt of gratitude to legislators and government officials on the federal and state level who have focused their energies tirelessly on homeland security and have worked to provide the tools we need," said Attorney General Harvey. "As a result, we are measurably safer than we were two years ago. But, we have much further to go."

     Director of the Office of Counter-Terrorism, Sid Casperson, and other state executives were also in attendance to offer their perspectives.

     Presentations to the state's decision makers all focused on assessing the threats to public safety in New Jersey and the capabilities of the State Police and other responsible agencies to respond to those threats. Some information covered included:

  • The State Police Aviation Unit provided a snapshot of current capabilities and some additional equipment needed to respond to today's needs. The lifesaving flights of State Police medivac helicopters are well known, but important law enforcement and emergency management potential of helicopters has only been scratched in the Garden State.
  • Operation Safe Passage was the subject of a presentation by the Narcotics and Organized Crime Bureau. Information on "narco-terrorism" highlighted the connection between the illegal drug trade and domestic and/or international terrorism. To more effectively target this threat, a partnership approach has been implemented to seamlessly integrate State Police resources with federal and local law enforcement, and even private corporations. Hotels, storage facilities, and truck/trailer rental corporations are a few private entities regularly included as partners in large drug operations and intelligence gathering.
  • Highly organized and violent street gangs engaged in drug distribution have been a growing source of domestic terrorism. The State Police have taken the lead in compiling information into a searchable database on gang activity. In the new holistic approach to crime, the community partnerships modeled in the successful Camden and Irvington initiatives have supplied much of the information leading to recent raids decapitating two notorious gangs.
  • Advances in Trooper deployment were highlighted by the Field Operations Branch. In light of the attack of September 11, 2001, contingency plans for any emergency or hazardous event were created, which allowed a force of over 200 Troopers to be placed in 17 cities and key locations within two hours of the unexpected blackouts in August. The State Police marine stations fielded seven boats during that deployment, which was also marked by pre-planned coordination with the National Guard and local police agencies. Deployment plans also direct the placement of Troopers during major events including weather emergencies, protests and large sporting events.
  • The State Police marine stations perform numerous duties that have grown significantly with homeland security functions. Some of our state's most important infrastructures including key transportation points and electric generating plants are protected from waterborne attacks by State Police boats. The number of Marine Unit calls for service in 2002 went up more than 45% from 2001. Additional modern boats and equipment are critical to the success of the expanded marine mission.
  • In preparation for cyber-terrorism attacks, the State Police Information Technology Bureau (ITB) has taken many steps to protect our computer systems. More systems are being developed to monitor and protect our state's critical infrastructures including communications, transportation and electricity providers. The State Police is also developing partners to form a statewide computer infrastructure protection center to guard state networks and aid the prosecution of cyber attackers.
  • ITB is also spearheading an effort to digitize all mug shots in the state. In the future, this database could be coupled with facial recognition software to be searched by DMV computers when subjects are photographed for licenses. This could help prevent known terrorists or wanted persons from obtaining false identification.

     After the colloquium, participants toured the State Police grounds and looked over various displays including a medivac helicopter, the new State Police motorcycles and equipment from the Arson-Bomb Unit. Refreshments and a press availability were then held at the State Police Museum and Learning Center.

     

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