A program that’s designed to prevent attacks at churches, synagogues, mosques and other gathering areas is being expanded in New Jersey.

Previously under the State Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot program, houses of worship, community centers and schools could apply for grants to help pay for security guards. Now these organizations can get funds for other security-related items as well.

“We’re allowing for those hardening tactics — the locks, alarms, training, those sorts of things — to be added into the state–based grants, so it really maximizes every bit of dollar that we can put out to the community,” said Jared Maples, the director of the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

He said to help improve security, personnel from NJOHSP will visit these groups and “make sure they’re aware of what those gaps are in their security posture, and make sure that people are prepared.”

He said there "have been a steady stream of these attacks" around the world.

"I will tell you while there are no specific or credible threats, every place that has a mass gathering in our state becomes a target of sorts.”

“I hate as the director of Homeland Security to have to sit here and say that you have to think about this to go to your worship, but it does become a reality and these incidents happen and you have to be a little bit more aware.”

Maples said all religious nonprofits are eligible for security grant money. Eligible nonprofits can receive grants up to $10,000 for security personnel, and up to $50,000 for target hardening equipment.

The State Security Grant program, launched last year as a pilot program, has a budget of $1 million.

NJOHSP can only award an applicant money for either security personnel or target hardening equipment, but not both, per fiscal year.

In addition to the New Jersey Security Grant program, houses of worship can also apply for similar federal grants.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com