As most of our readers know, a terrible tragedy occurred last week in Sofia, Bulgaria with the terrorist murder bombing where five Israelis were murdered and many many more injured. Acting quickly, the Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead arranged for extra police protection at our synagogues, schools, Yeshivos and places that might be likely targets. The Five Towns Jewish Times spoke with Kate Murray, the Town Supervisor, about these new arrangements.
Yair Hoffman: We are here with Kate Murray, the Supervisor of the Town of Hempstead in Nassau County. The Town of Hempstead is the largest Town in the United States, and Kate Murray has proven to be a very capable Supervisor. First of all, Kate, the Jewish community is very happy that you so quickly decided to move on this extra protection in light of what happened in Bulgaria. When was the decision made to provide it to the schools and to the synagogues, and how did it come about?
Kate: Well, we’re all reading about the terrible attacks that took place in Bulgaria and so the thought immediately occurred to me that obviously with the Five Towns being such a center for Jewish residents we had to think about adding some extra protections to the extent that we could through our police department. I reached out to Rabbi Billet and had a conversation with him from the, of course, Young Israel in Woodmere. He expressed concerns, similar concerns of course about heightened awareness and heightened security concerns over the Five-Towns area in particular. What I did was after that conversation I reached out to Commissioner Thomas Dale, who is the commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department, and we had a great conversation.
He was very commiseratory, very much understood. He comes from New York City, the police department, and so he currently has the idea of terrorism and security on his mind. I’m very pleased to say that I got a very quick email from Commissioner Dale after we had our conversation, within probably the hour, saying that they had made the determination to step up patrols in and around Jewish institutions within Nassau County. I was very, very gratified at the police commissioner’s quick response to my call for action for call for stepped-up patrols in and around the Five Towns in particular. That’s where we’re at.
Yair Hoffman: Okay great. You have a history of being able to slash funding. I understand you saved about 2.5 million dollars in the budget. Where does the funding come for this, or is it a redirection of the police units already on staff? Do you have emergency budgeting for this
Kate: Actually the net base, it doesn’t cost me a penny because Nassau County, I’m in the town of Hempstead of course, and the police department of course is through Nassau County. This would’ve been an operational and budgetary issue for Nassau County. The great thing is obviously the police department understands and the police commissioner understands the importance of these patrols and the need for an enhanced security presence in the Five Towns at this time. He made the decision to increase the patrols. We’re very grateful for the commissioner’s quick action after our conversation. The bottom line is, what I’m also saying to folks is, the police department can do what it can do, but we as citizens, we’re the army. If we remain vigilant and especially aware during these times, of our surroundings, if we see a suspicious person, a suspicious package or briefcase or something of that sort in our daily lives, pick up the phone to the police. If everyone ever considered, “Oh gee, I’m sure it’s nothing.” Well let’s make sure it’s nothing and let’s be all happy when it’s nothing. That eagle eye or that increased awareness from our citizenry as well really is the greatest asset to our police department also.
Yair Hoffman: Is there a counter-terrorism unit at all in the Nassau County Police Department that you’re aware of? The New York City Police Department has such a thing. I’m just wondering if you’re aware of anything like that.
Kate: I believe there is, but I’m no expert on the specific inner workings of the Nassau County Police Department. I am aware there is a counter-terrorism unit and I do know that they have on many occasions have interacted with the New York City Police Department. Of course Commissioner Thomas Dale comes from the New York City Police Department, so there’s a great sympathy, let’s say, or working relationship that will be even enhanced, more enhanced now with him being commissioner. I do believe, absolutely, there is a counter-terrorism type of unit within the Nassau County Police Department. Obviously this commissioner has been through some terrorist activity that occurred in New York City. We’re fortunate to have him and the experiences that he brings, sadly enough, in this area. I do think the stepped up patrol, I hope that the citizens of the
Five Towns do have a greater sense of a feeling of security, a greater comfort level. But again, going upon everybody to be vigilant. “If you see something, say something,” as they say. That could greatly assist our police and law enforcement.
Yair Hoffman: Do you know is there any coordination planned now in light of this with the New York City Police Department counterterrorism that you may be aware of?
Kate: I’m not aware of that level of operational interaction between Nassau County and New York City. It would just be speculation at this point. I would imagine that not only do they do it at time of extra stress like these days in light of the Bulgarian attack, but I’m sure they do it on a regular basis. But that’s just my anecdotal knowledge about interactions between those two departments.
Yair Hoffman: Which areas do you think in Nassau County might have the most risk in this kind of thing?
Kate: Well it just stands to reason that we are a likely target because we are number one outside of New York City in terms of Jewish residents. It is not like Suffolk County where there’s not a discernible community or communities that are an enclave of Jewish citizens I dare say the Five Towns may be the greatest concentration of Jewish citizens on Long Island. Of course you have the Great Neck area, you have other areas, but the Five Towns is a very significant geographical area where Jewish citizens live by and large. It stands to reason that if there were, G-d forbid, any terrorist activity outside of New York City, the Five Towns could potentially be a target. The institutions, the schools, temples, yeshivas, what have you. Any place where Jewish citizens gather.
Yair Hoffman: I’m thinking even one of the main thoroughfares there, Central Avenue, is just a hot-bed.
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. You have commercial activity, pedestrian traffic, automobile traffic. Absolutely. Central is huge. Broadway, Central, you know the main thoroughfares. That’s certainly why my mind goes to the Five Towns when you have this kind of a scenario happening internationally. Even domestically with the horrible attack that occurred in Colorado. Have no idea what the motivations were behind the gunman in Colorado last night or yesterday. But the fact is that we now have domestic terrorism kind of scenario going on in Colorado and international terrorism. It behooves us as citizens and in particular Jewish citizens in an area that’s known to have many Jewish citizens to be particularly aware, aware of our surroundings, and in a mode to help our local law enforcement.
Yair Hoffman: Right. Well thank you so much Kate Murray. We really appreciate all your efforts on behalf of the Jewish community.
Kate: Yes. I appreciate it. I had a conversation with Rabbi Billet yesterday and he had shared a course of things and concerns that I’m sure may citizens in the Five Towns are experiencing these days. I was grateful for his advice, and I’m grateful for Commissioner Dale’s quick response to my call for stepped-up patrols. Hopefully together all of those factors will add up to a safe weekend and a safe period of time for all of our citizens.
Yair Hoffman: Yes. Hopefully. With our prayers and your efforts, hopefully we’ll come through this.
Kate: Absolutely. Yeah. That’s right.
Yair Hoffman: Thank you so, so much.
Kate: All right. My pleasure and thanks so much for the interest.
Yair Hoffman: Okay. Be well. Bye-bye
Kate: All right. You too. Thank you so much. Bye-bye.