Some weeks ago, after completing my work at The Observer after 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, I drove to Kearny High School to take some photos of the stalled construction project.
I parked my car on Devon St., close to the main entrance, and proceeded to take some shots of the classroom trailers on the school’s front lawn and some additional shots of the King St. side of the school.
When I felt I had enough, I walked back to my car and noticed that a man had emerged from the school’s front entrance and was watching me and taking notes.
I figured he was writing down my license plate number, which irked me, so I approached him to confirm my suspicions – which he did – and then I asked why.
That’s when I learned he was a security employee for the Kearny Board of Education and he was simply doing his job – not confronting me, but simply taking my plate number, as a precaution, maybe to get the police to run it through their data system and see what came up.
Well, after we had our talk and I explained what I was doing, the man was fine with that. He explained that if I had been wearing my press credentials – which I wasn’t at the time – this whole episode probably could’ve been avoided.
We parted on friendly terms.
In retrospect, it was good to see that the Kearny school authorities had the right man on the job that day. Someone who took his work seriously, who didn’t try to take the law into his own hands, who did the right thing by reacting the way he did.
His action has since struck home in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing tragedy when law enforcement agencies, exercising careful review of video footage of the bombing sites, were able to pick out what they considered to be – and were – the suspects in the case.
Municipal officials in Kearny are taking what appear to be appropriate security precautions by widening the net of wireless surveillance cameras around town to protect the lives and properties of local residents and business owners.
As noted by Police Chief John Dowie, the eyes in the sky are a valuable investigative tool to supplement – not replace – the men and women in blue who patrol the streets every day and the detectives who follow up on crimes.
And, like the conscientious school security guard, you and I can help, too, by being alert to something suspicious.
As former Navy intelligence officer and current Nutley Township Commissioner Steve Rogers pointed in last week’s Observer story by Karen Zautyk, “The best resource [in helping prevent acts of terror] is the extended eyes and ears of the public.”
If you see something, say something. Or if you hear something that strikes you as strange, call the authorities.
Still, let’s try not to get carried away: I’m not advocating for McCarthyism – seeing a “Red” or enemy behind a neighbor’s door. We should never be using the specter of terrorism as an excuse for “getting” someone we happen not to like.
You know the drill, folks. Just be careful – and smart – out there.
– Ron Leir