The New York City Police Department on Nov. 19 arrested an alleged “al-Qaeda sympathizer” who is being accused of plotting to bomb police departments and post offices in New York City, as well as U.S. troops returning home and even Bayonne Police Headquarters.
Public Safety Director Jason O’Donnell said that the Bayonne Police Department is working with the NYPD and other agencies in connection with the continuing investigation.
Jose Pimentel, 27, who was arrested as the result of a year-long investigation by the NYPD, allegedly planned to plant bombs in a variety of police department buildings and post offices and allegedly named the Bayonne Police Department as one of his targets, according to law enforcement sources.
In a press conference, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Bayonne police were among the alleged targets that would have also included military troops returning home from the war front.
“It is an unfortunate sign of the times that we must all be ever-vigilant in the fight against terrorism.” – Jason O’Donnell
Bayonne Public Safety Director Jason O’Donnell said the investigation that nabbed Pimentel was organized by the NYPD and not the federal Department of Homeland Security.
“Normally we would have been notified by the FBI,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell added, “It is an unfortunate sign of the times that we must all be ever-vigilant in the fight against terrorism. There must be a continuing partnership with our citizens to help identify and report anything unusual that people see. Average citizens are our eyes and ears on the front line in the war against terrorism. If something doesn’t seem right, it should be reported to the police at (201) 858-6900 so that they can take appropriate action.”
Stepped up security
In accordance with department policy, Bayonne has stepped up security around government buildings. The department is cooperating with the appropriate agencies to gain a better understanding of why Bayonne was included in the suspect’s supposedly intended targets.
Because of the vast chemical storage facilities located in Bayonne, the city is considered a prime target for terrorism, one reason why federal and state offices of Homeland Security have invested in supplies such as cameras and other security devices, many of which are monitored by the Bayonne Police Department.
This week, Bayonne Mayor Mark A. Smith joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in thanking the New York City Police and the department's Intelligence Division for their work in apprehending Pimentel. Mayor Smith echoed Director O’Donnell’s opinion that citizens should report anything that seems out of the ordinary in the community.
“If something seems unusual or out of place in your neighborhood, you should call the police and let them check it out,” said Smith.
O’Donnell, who did not speculate on why Bayonne was a specifically named target, said the city was taking the incident very seriously.
Once called “the most dangerous two miles in America” by an FBI agent, Hudson County has been a concern for federal officials since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2008, Rep. Albio Sires took Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, then the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, on a tour of critical infrastructure sites in northern New Jersey.
“We have the two tunnels, the Bayonne Bridge, the fuel repositories and the ports in Bayonne and Elizabeth,” Sires said at the time.
Sires said that ever since Sept. 11 and the formation of the federal Department of Homeland Security, he has been working to secure as much funding for the area as possible.
On Monday, Sires released a statement commending Mayor Bloomberg, New York Police Commissioner Kelly, and the NYPD on the apprehension of Jose Pimental. He also commended Mayor Smith and the members of the Bayonne Police Department for their vigilance.
“My office has contacted all necessary federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure that the appropriate measures are being taken to protect our residents,” he said.