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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 19, 2023

Federal, State Agencies to Hold Public Forum to Strengthen Security of Maine’s Houses of Worship

January 26 event to be held at UMaine Augusta

PORTLAND, Maine: Multiple federal and state agencies are collaborating to host a Protecting Houses of Worship event series aimed at helping Maine’s faith-based organizations identify vulnerabilities and strengthen security. The next event will be held on Thursday, January 26, 2023, at the University of Maine at Augusta.

The Protecting Houses of Worship event is open to all Maine faith-based organizations. Local law enforcement and community leaders are also welcome to attend. Registration is required, and a registration form can be found at https://www.justice.gov/usao-me/PHOW. There is no cost to attend.

“Everyone should feel safe when they gather to express their faith or serve their community,” said Dr. T.J. Swenson Jr., DHS-CISA’s Protective Security Advisor (PSA) to the State of Maine. “However, in a complex and dynamic threat environment, no single entity has the full picture of the threat, so it is imperative that we work together across the community to protect against the physical and cyber threats facing our communities and houses of worship.”

The Protecting Houses of Worship event is a collaboration of the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA); Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (DHS-CISA); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Boston Field Office, Portland Resident Agency; U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Community Relations Service (CRS); and U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Maine, along with the participation of local law enforcement and faith-based partners.

“Faith-based events and houses of worship – churches, synagogues, mosques – are inherently welcoming, with open access and publicly-available services. As we have seen around the country, this welcoming environment can leave them vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee. “There are steps that can be taken to reduce risks, and we’re thrilled to collaborate with MEMA, the FBI, DHS-CISA, CRS and local law enforcement to bring this information and resources to Maine’s faith-based community.”

The goal of the event series is to provide practical information, tools and resources (including information on available federal grants) to help bolster emergency preparedness efforts and foster best practices to keep Maine’s faith-based events and houses of worship safe. Topics discussed during the event will include:

  • Security, Risk and Vulnerability Assessments
  • Active Shooter Preparedness, Response & Resources
  • Building Your Own Emergency Operations Plan
  • Faith-Based Experiences with Public Safety Issues

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“No one should feel unsafe in their place of worship or fear becoming a victim of violence because of their religion. In today’s dynamic threat environment, now more than ever, all of us need to work together to safeguard our houses of worship and public spaces where Mainers gather every day,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “This event will bring us together to facilitate this very important conversation and allow us to share information and resources in real time.”

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Topic(s): 
Domestic Terrorism
Hate Crimes
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Jana Spaulding Public Information Officer, Contract Tel: (207) 771-3232
Updated January 19, 2023