Why NJ now considers white supremacists a major terror threat
A new report warns of increasing threat levels in the Garden State from lone-wolf actors and one particular type of hate group.
“We’ve kept homegrown violent extremists, or HVEss as a high threat. They continue to be a high threat to our state,” said Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. “We’ve also added to the high threat list white supremacist extremists."
White supremacist extremists were considered a "moderate" threat in last year's version of the Terrorism Threat Assessment.
"We’ve moved that ideological group up, given the amount of incidents," Maples said. "Everything from flyering to recruiting to graffiti, to some of the attacks you’ve seen throughout the United States.” White supremacist extremists are now listed at the assessment's highest-level alert.
Maples said these are not what some people would think of as traditional terrorist threats, but "they are things that people should be watching for and letting us know."
"And again, we can always deal with this in a way that’s respectful of everyone’s rights, but we need to know about these people so we can head it off before it becomes an attack," Maples said.
He said complacency about terrorism is a concern, and it’s important for people to be aware and communicate when they see or hear something that doesn’t seem right.
He stressed “the public has to be aware and alert us to the problems that they see because no one knows their street or their community or their synagogue or their church or their mosque like those people do.”
Maples said the No. 1 concern these days is with behaviors.
“We want to know if people are behaving suspiciously, if they’re doing things, if they’re saying things that might lead to violence," he said. "That’s our No. 1 concern, not where somebody is from or what they look like, it’s about the behaviors.
He said people don't often think of New Jersey as a hotbed for white supremacists, or black separatists, or other race-driven and anti-government movements, "but the fact is we have groups out there, we have individuals out there that espouse those ideals.”
“The public is the front line of defense for us in the State of New Jersey," he said. "We rely on them heavily and thank them for their vigilance and understanding.”
He noted another ongoing threat is cyberattacks, including ransomware, which are listed in this year's assessment as a moderate threat.
As for ISIS and Al Qaeda, he said they’ve been moved down the list to a low-level threat, “but it doesn’t mean they’re not still capable of launching an attack," Maples said.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
More from New Jersey 101.5: