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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Anti-Defamation League, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center Host Security Conference for Religious Institutions

PHILADELPHIA – On November 13, 2018, the Anti-Defamation League (“ADL”), the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (“USAO”), and the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (“DVIC”) hosted an informational event on making religious institutions and communities more secure. Over 200 clergy, staff, lay leaders, and law enforcement personnel from eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware gathered for a half-day summit entitled “Securing Sacred Spaces and Places.” Attendees were welcomed by ADL’s Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer, Deputy U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen, FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Harpster, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross.

“After last month’s horrific synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, religious institutions are more concerned than ever with keeping their members safe,” said Nancy K. Baron-Baer, ADL Regional Director. “In the face of surging bigotry and emboldened extremists, faith-based communities need to be vigilant and prepared.  We are pleased that over 160 religious institutions from across the region were able to participate in today's important security summit, and we are so grateful to our law enforcement partners -- including the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI -- for their help in planning this conference, and for working to keep faith-based communities safe every day.”

“Religious freedom is one of the bedrock principles of our nation,” said U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain.  “We cannot be afraid for our safety when we attend and pray during religious services, whether in a church, a synagogue, a mosque, or elsewhere.  During the conference, the FBI released its annual Hate Crime Statistics report, which showed that hate crime incidents reported to the FBI increased about 17% in 2017 compared to the previous year.  The United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are working tirelessly to ensure the security of our sacred spaces in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  But we cannot succeed without the help of everyone in the community.  If you see something that could lead to violence, you need to say something and call the authorities.  And when you call, we will be there to help.”

"We are helping people to keep themselves as safe as possible,” said Police Commissioner, Richard Ross.  “This collaboration is an example of federal, state and local partners working diligently to help people manage risk and prepare to know what to do should a dangerous threat arise.”

The summit focused on preparing and responding to a variety of threats facing faith-based institutions. The FBI presented on active shooter preparation and response, including a case study on the Overland Park Jewish Community Center shooting in 2014. A Senior Investigative Researcher in ADL’s Center on Extremism provided a briefing on white supremacists and their attacks against religious institutions over the past few years. The summit concluded with a panel on countering radicalization in our communities, featuring Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Barrett, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Derek Boucher, Al Aqsa Islamic Academy School Director Chukri Korchid, and Inspector Winton Singletary of the Philadelphia Police Department. 

“Just last month, a man walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and, driven by what most of us would consider inexplicable hate, slaughtered 11 Jewish people as they gathered for weekly prayers. It was the deadliest hate crime against the Jewish community ever committed on American soil,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney Lappen, who gave opening remarks at the conference. “Unfortunately, this attack is part of a disturbing increase in the numbers of hate crimes committed in the United States in recent years. We are all committed to working together to combat this frightening trend.”

Updated November 13, 2018