Many are looking forward to gathering with family and friends and enjoying the upcoming holiday season.

Not all, however, are embracing the notion of peace on earth and goodwill to all.

“The holiday season is a time of concern and heightened threat, not only here in New Jersey, but across the United States,” said Chris Rodriguez, director of the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

Recently, “Al Qaeda and ISIS released the latest English language editions of their magazines, which contain some specific threats.”

As a result, additional security measures are being taken across the region.

“We see a lot of these threats coming out during the holiday season, so it’s not something we’re not prepared for, and I think we have a good battle rhythm in place to ensure that people are safe and secure,” he said.

“Whether it’s the Thanksgiving Day parade or some of the events scheduled around the holiday season in December, we’re being vigilant and asking the public to do so as well,” he said.

In other words, enjoy the holidays, but stay alert.

“People need to always keep in mind the 'See Something, Say Something' attitude. There’s certainly many ways to do that, the first is by alerting local law enforcement,” he said.

“Whether in large public areas like shopping malls, if they see something suspicious they should certainly report it.”

Some believe complacency about possible terror activity is a problem, but Rodriguez has a different view.

“This region was disproportionately affected by 9/11, and so I think the people in this region are not complacent. They are aware of the terrorist threat that exists. The public is a strong partner in making sure that law enforcement and homeland security professionals can help them and help keep them safe,” he said.

While everyone is on guard against a possible attack by ISIS, the homegrown violent extremist threat continues to be the greatest threat to our region.

“We’ve done a great deal to ensure local law enforcement has appropriate tools, that the state has the appropriate tools to try to detect and deter those types of activities, but they’re inherently difficult,” he noted.

The Homegrown Security Initiative is focused on detecting and deterring possible terrorist activity before it plays out.

“We’re going into towns and talking to local police departments, local businesses and giving them tools and resources to keep the areas that they own and operate secure,” he said.

So as New Jerseyans head out for Thanksgiving dinner, then Black Friday shopping, Rodriguez says they should “have confidence in the fact that the people who are sworn to protect them and to defend them are doing their jobs."

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