Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced a multi-pronged campaign to increase safety and security at houses of worship and denounce all forms of hate in the wake of the recent increase in the number of attacks on religious institutions. As part of the OneSuffolk campaign, the Suffolk County Police Department will be providing additional outreach to houses of worship to participate in Safety in the Sanctuary training, along with creating an online version of the training to reach a wider number of institutions. The County will also create a new working group designed to ensure Suffolk County remains a hate free community.
“In Suffolk County, we have zero tolerance for hatred or violence of any kind” said County Executive Bellone. “Our churches, mosques and synagogues are places for our residents to come together and celebrate their faith and community. We will do everything in our power to safeguard our residents in these welcoming places and denounce hate of any kind.”
Since 2017, the Police Department has performed more than 60 Safety in the Sanctuary trainings for houses of worship. This included seven presentations in 2017, twenty-eight in 2018, and twenty-four year to date. The program, which is designed to meet the unique challenges faced by religious centers, is offered through the Suffolk County Police Department’s Shield counterterrorism and anti-crime program. The Safety in the Sanctuaryprogram was initially developed in Newberry, South Carolina, after the 2015 attack on a Charleston church. The SCPD received the curriculum in 2016 and adapted it for the county’s needs.
In order to reach as many organizations as possible, the Department will increase outreach efforts to encourage additional houses of worship to receive Safety in the Sanctuary trainings. This effort will include outreach to the New York Board of Rabbis, Dioceses of Rockville Center and Long Island Council of Churches to organize a meeting with stakeholders.
The Police Department has performed 22 security assessments at houses of worship since 2017, along with active shooter training and stop the bleed training. The Active Shooting training seminars walk attendees through real world examples and various safety techniques to utilize during an active shooter incident. Since 2017, the SCPD has run over 233 active shooter trainings at schools, places of employment, and houses of worship. Last year, the Department added two additional staff members to the Homeland Security Bureau to asses and evaluate safety and security across the County.
As part of the OneSuffolk Campaign, the new working group will create a collaborative network which will stand in solidarity and denounce all acts of hatred, violence and discrimination in Suffolk County that is based upon one’s race, creed, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or religion.
The working group will provide a unified and timely response to acts of bigotry, hate and discrimination against Suffolk County residents. The goal of the group will be to ensure Suffolk County remains a hate free community which embraces and promotes diversity, inclusion, social justice, respect, civility and equality for all. Tenets of the formation of the group will be derived from 10 Ways to Fight Hate from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Members of the working group include:
- Suffolk County Anti-Bias Task Force
- Town Anti-Bias Task Forces
- Suffolk County Police Department Hate Crimes and Community Relations Bureau
- County Human Rights Commission
- Suffolk County Office of Minority Affairs
- LGBT Network
- Suffolk County Community College Center for Social Justice
- Faith Leaders of Ministerial Associations and Boards