As we approach graduation season, anti-terror officials in New Jersey are stepping up efforts to keep schools safe.

According to Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, in addition to continuing active-shooter response training and cyber-security intelligence gathering, his office is making a “huge push” to remind residents to say something if they see anything that seems odd or threatening near a school.

“New Jersey has the most elite first response capability in the United States but what we want to focus on is also first prevention and first preventers and getting ahead of those problems, and that’s reporting to the suspicious activities reporting system," he said.

He noted Homeland Security is involved in “outreach to schools, training and exercise, working together in coordination with the State Police to do No Warning events and drills with the Department of Education, as well.”

He said examples of suspicious behavior could include someone conducting surveillance, gathering information, testing security, carrying any kind of material or equipment that could be used in a potential attack, or anything that may seem odd.

Maples pointed out there are several ways to report concerns or suspicions:

  • Calling 1-866-4-SAFENJ
  • Online at NJOHSP.gov
  • NJhomelandsecurity.gov
  • Or by calling 211

He said to prevent school shootings or any other terror event, everybody needs to pay attention and starting thinking about this kind of possibility before it happens.

“You have situations like Parkland and Columbine and the nightclub in Orlando — if somebody had spoken up and the dots could have been connected, it could have been prevented.”

He stressed to prevent a possible future school attack, help from members of the public is critical.

“Our folks are all trained in what to do with the information, where to go with the information," he said.

He also noted schools are being reminded some security precautions are not necessarily new or high tech.

“They include things as simple as locking doors and access cards," he said.

"The more information we have, the better we can connect those dots and stop an incident from happening.”