School Security: Linden Police Chief Discusses Resources and Coordination Needed to Investigate School Threats
In a news media interview, Linden (Union County) Police Chief Jonathan Parham discussed the large amount of resources and coordination required to investigate an anonymous threat to a school. Linden High School was on lockdown most of the day on January 31 after a social media posting threatened to shoot students. On February 1, Linden police announced that a 16-year-old female student had been arrested for making the threats. When asked to estimate the number of responders to the threat and the number of investigators working behind the scenes, Chief Parham’s best estimate was “several hundred.” He stated that when searching for a suspect when children’s lives are at stake, “no municipality has the manpower to handle that alone.” In addition to the uniformed police officers, other personnel were analyzing intelligence information and working from the county Prosecutor’s Office on issues such as search warrant affidavits. Neighboring police departments in Rahway and Roselle responded, as did Union County’s bomb squad with canines and investigators from the Prosecutor’s Office. State and federal officials were also involved.
A Union County spokesman agreed, noting that the response takes vital resources from patrol duties, often for long periods of time.
The frequency of false threats in recent years has increased the frustration level. Chief Parham said prosecuting the perpetrators is critical to deterring such threats in the future.
Quebec Mosque Attack Suspect Charged With Six Counts of Murder
Alexandre Bissonnette, the 27-year-old suspect in last week’s shooting at a mosque in Quebec City, has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder with a restricted firearm. The prosecutor said terrorism charges could be added later, Bissonnette, a university student, was known to local activists for his “far-right views,” according to news media reports, and often made online statements inspired by extreme right-wing French nationalists. He had no previous criminal record and was not on any watch lists.
According to members of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center, the defendant was seen twice outside the mosque in the days before the shooting, likely conducting surveillance. One member of the congregation encountered the defendant inside the mosque three days before the attack, when he asked for money.
Florida Man Convicted of Plotting Beach Attack
On January 31, a Florida resident was convicted of charges related to the first terrorist plot in the United States to target tourists at a public beach. Harlem Suarez, age 25, of Monroe County, Florida, was found guilty of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (an explosive device) and providing material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The case called attention to the vulnerability of public beaches, including those in New Jersey.
In 2015, Suarez told an FBI confidential human source that he wanted to make a “timer bomb,” bury it at a public beach in Key West, and detonate it. He bought components for the device, which was to be packed with nails, hidden in a backpack, and remotely detonated by a cell phone. He was arrested in July 2015, after he took possession of an inert device.