Morris County Sheriff’s Office Participates In Code Blue Planning For Sheltering Homeless People During Severe Cold Weather

The Morris County Sheriff’s Office participated Tuesday in a “Code Blue” meeting that brought together police, emergency management officials, medical and human services providers to plan for housing the homeless and at-risk individuals before severe winter weather arrives.

Morris County Sheriff's Office Chief Officer Kelley Zienowicz participated Tuesday, September 24, in a Code Blue meeting that focused on sheltering homeless people during severe cold weather.
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Chief Officer Kelley Zienowicz participated Tuesday, September 24, in a Code Blue meeting that focused on sheltering homeless people during severe cold weather.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in May 2017 signed legislation requiring all county emergency management coordinators to establish a Code Blue program to shelter the homeless during severe weather.

Morris County’s homeless population included at least 388 individuals as of January 22, 2019, when a federally-mandated annual count called the Point In Time Count was conducted by service providers and other agencies. Homelessness in Morris County increased by 1 percent from 2015 to 2019, according to the count.

From left, Morris County Director of Human Services Sharon Yoo, Homeless Solutions Director of Programs and Services Wes Gaynor, Family Promise of Morris County Executive Director Joann Bjornson, and Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul at a Code Blue meeting on September 24.
From left, Morris County Director of Human Services Sharon Yoo, Homeless Solutions Director of Programs and Services Wes Gaynor, Family Promise of Morris County Executive Director Joann Bjornson, and Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul at a Code Blue meeting on September 24.

Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul, along with Morris County Director of Human Services Sharon Yoo and Office of Temporary Assistance Division Director Gary Denamen, led the meeting designed to ensure that all 39 municipalities have a warming center designated should OEM activate a Code Blue.

The 2019 Point In Time Count identified 254 homeless people in Morristown; 20 in Dover; 17 in Morris Township; and seven in Denville.

Representatives of service providers, including Market Street Mission, Family Promise of Morris County, Homeless Solutions and others also identified at the meeting the housing stock and additional resources they have to share during emergencies. Wes Gaynor, Director of Programs and Services for Homeless Solutions, said the facility will have 18 beds available – 50 percent more than last winter – to house homeless during Code Blue events between December 1 and March 31, 2020.

The session was attended by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Chief Officer Kelley Zienowicz and Bureau of Corrections Sergeant Ray Dykstra.  The Correctional Facility is apprised of Code Blue and available warming centers in the event a person has nowhere to go in severe weather upon discharge from the facility.

“Protecting vulnerable people during extreme weather is one of the guardian roles of law enforcement officers, who are typically aware of homeless and at-risk people in their communities and know what needs to be done to help those people survive the night,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.

Morristown Director of Public Safety Michael C. Corcoran Jr. participated September 24 in a large Code Blue meeting on how to ensure that homeless people are sheltered in severe weather.
Morristown Director of Public Safety Michael C. Corcoran Jr. participated September 24 in a large Code Blue meeting on how to ensure that homeless people are sheltered in severe weather.

The Sheriff’s Office’s Hope One mobile substance use resource and recovery vehicle, since April 3, 2017, also makes lengthy stops in Morris County towns at least twice a week, during which its staff encounter individuals in need of social services. Hope One’s services – Narcan training, guidance on addiction services and treatment programs, and mental health assistance – are supplemented by the Navigating Hope mobile program that assists people with housing, Food Stamps and other social service needs.

The law calls for a Code Blue alert to be activated when the National Weather Service forecasts and advisories predict that temperatures will reach 25 degrees or lower without precipitation, or 32 degrees or lower with precipitation, or when the wind chill factor will cause temperatures to be zero or below for a period of two hours or more.

Director Paul stressed that municipalities need to establish warming centers – even if a need isn’t anticipated – so that homeless and at-risk people aren’t shuffled to centers in other towns or sent as last resorts to hospitals, which need their beds for medical patients. Designated warming centers also can be used to accommodate people in event of a power outage, severe storm or other weather emergency, Director Paul said.

He noted that years ago, homeless people froze to death in Morris County, but coordination and communication has vastly improved since then between municipalities, the county and service providers.

“With the programs we have in place now, we should be able to prevent that,” Director Paul said.

 

 

Morris County Correctional Facility Volunteers Thanked For Improving The Lives of Officers, Staff And Inmates

Dozens of volunteers who bring religious services, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and anger management sessions to inmates at the Morris County Correctional Facility were thanked at a festive barbecue outside the facility on Saturday.

From left, Morris County Correctional Facility Volunteers Anna Marrano (seated), Linda Bartolotta, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Father Owen Moran at a volunteer appreciation barbecue Saturday, September 21, at the Morris County Correctional Facility.
From left, Morris County Correctional Facility Volunteers Anna Marrano (seated), Linda Bartolotta, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Father Owen Moran at a volunteer appreciation barbecue Saturday, September 21, at the Morris County Correctional Facility.

Sheriff James M. Gannon told the crowd feasting on kielbasa, hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, pork, sweet potatoes and corn on the cob that the Correctional Facility’s exceptional management is enhanced by the volunteers who strive to enrich the lives of inmates through educational, spiritual, religious and self-awareness programs.

“I think it’s so important what you do. You have my 110 percent commitment,” Sheriff Gannon said.

He noted that more than 50 percent of the Correctional Facility inmate population is addicted and that inmates, no matter what their faith, have the absolute right to worship. Volunteers from Catholic, Christian, Baptist, Islamic, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other faiths arrange for services at the Correctional Facility while others donate their time to help inmates address substance abuse disorders and anger management issues.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon hugs Elizabeth Gilfillan, a 29-year Catholic ministry volunteer for the Morris County Correctional Facility at a volunteer appreciation barbecue on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Mrs. Gilfillan retired as a volunteer this year.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon hugs Elizabeth Gilfillan, a 29-year Catholic ministry volunteer for the Morris County Correctional Facility at a volunteer appreciation barbecue on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Mrs. Gilfillan retired as a volunteer this year.

Special recognition was given to 29-year Catholic worship volunteer Elizabeth Gilfillan, a retired registered nurse who began offering her time in 1990, when the 1930’s-era Correctional Facility was located in Morristown. A new state-of-the-art facility opened in May 2000 on John Street in Morris Township.

Mrs. Gilfillan said she became interested in prisoner welfare when she was in nursing school in her early twenties and spent a month in a tuberculosis ward in Maryland. That concern translated later in her life to becoming a volunteer at the Morris County Correctional Facility, a position from which she just retired.

“I particularly, over the years, was concerned with the women inmates. There but for the grace of God, I thought, and I wondered what got them in their predicaments. They’re human beings who got themselves into bad situations,” Mrs. Gilfillan said.

“We can never repay you,” Sheriff Gannon told Mrs. Gilfillan.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon hugs Elizabeth Gilfillan, a 29-year Catholic ministry volunteer for the Morris County Correctional Facility at a volunteer appreciation barbecue on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Mrs. Gilfillan retired as a volunteer this year.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon hugs Elizabeth Gilfillan, a 29-year Catholic ministry volunteer for the Morris County Correctional Facility at a volunteer appreciation barbecue on Saturday, September 21, 2019. Mrs. Gilfillan retired as a volunteer this year.

“Please remember that you made a difference in so many lives. And that’s inclusive of the staff. You made people better. Not only the inmates but the people on staff who have a tough job,” Sheriff Gannon said.

The barbecue, held on a sun-filled day under tents, was primarily arranged by Correctional Facility Sergeant Andrew Bileci and Substance Abuse Counselor Ken Palmisano. Along with Sheriff Gannon, Correctional Facility Undersheriff Alan J. Robinson, Warden Chris Klein, Captains Robert McCaffrey and James Janzen, Corporal Deanna Cucci and other staff mingled with the volunteers.

Corporal Cucci, who oversees the application process for volunteers, estimated there are 90 to 100 people who donate their time to the Correctional Facility.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to be here,” said Corey Rogers, who is part of a congregation of Jehovah Witness worshippers who hold Sunday services and Bible study classes at the Correctional Facility.

Bahadir Ekinci, of the North East Islamic Community Center, also leads classes at the Facility, and said giving is an intrinsic part of his faith.

“I have knowledge, time and I want to give back. In Islam, you have to give back your wealth and for me, my wealth is in time,” he said.

Volunteers from JBWS, the Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success (CARES), and Hope House, which ministers to people with AIDS and the HIV virus, were at the barbecue, some with their children in tow. Father Owen Moran, a Catholic chaplain at the Correctional Facility, was at the event with many of his fellow volunteers.

“I always say you meet the nicest people in prison – they just need to change their ways,” Father Moran said.

Correctional Facility Substance Abuse Counselor Mike Dunleavy runs the Hope Wing where inmates with substance use disorders specifically tackle their inner turmoil by learning coping skills for their addictions and relationship renewal with their families.

“The volunteers bring many eclectic approaches, a different dynamic to the Correctional Facility. They’re the heart and soul of it,” said Counselor Dunleavy.

 

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Police Chiefs Assure Jewish Chabad Leaders Their Safety Is A Priority, In Advance of High Holy Days

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Police Chiefs throughout the county assured the Jewish community on Friday, Sept. 20, that their houses of worship are a security priority, particularly during High Holy Days.

Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon with Rabbi Levi Dubinsky, Director of the Chabad Jewish Center, at a security session on September 20, 2019.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon with Rabbi Levi Dubinsky, Director of the Chabad Jewish Center, at a security session on September 20, 2019.

The Sheriff’s Office, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in Morris County have steadily been building a dialogue with Jewish communities and leaders of Chabad outreach centers and previously met with them in June.

A follow-up community meeting on Friday, facilitated by Morris County Sheriff’s Office Captain Denise Thornton, gave Rabbi Levi Dubinsky, director of the Chabad Jewish Center that serves Mountain Lakes, Boonton and Denville, an opportunity to express an ongoing need and the community’s appreciation for security measures taken on behalf of Jewish worshippers.

People of the Jewish faith will be observing two major Holy Days in the next few weeks: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the most solemn time of prayer and atonement for Jewish people.   Rabbi Dubinsky said attendance at services swell during High Holy Days and Rabbis want worshippers to feel comfortable and safe.

“The first thing on everyone’s mind today is security. What security is there? What security measures are in place?” Rabbi Dubinsky said. He said all Chabad and synagogue leaders should make the effort to build a strong working relationship with local police, even if they employ private security officers.

From left, Morris County Sheriff's Office Detective Lieutenant Aaron Tomasini, Morris County Director of Emergency Management Jeffrey Paul and Morris County Sheriff's Emergency Response Team Commander Gino Fluri discuss security measures to protect the Jewish community and all houses of worship in Morris County.
From left, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lieutenant Aaron Tomasini, Morris County Director of Emergency Management Jeffrey Paul and Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team Commander Gino Fluri discuss security measures to protect the Jewish community and all houses of worship in Morris County.

“There should be an open door policy,” Rabbi Dubinsky said. Also representing the Jewish community at the event was Robert A. Wilson, Chief Security Officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ.

In welcoming Rabbi Dubinsky, Sheriff Gannon presented him with credentials that identify him as a chaplain representing    the Jewish community.

Sheriff Gannon, acknowledging strong partnerships with the Prosecutor’s Office and local police departments, explained that all 317 houses of worship in Morris County, including 34 synagogues, are part of a directed patrol regimen performed by the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT), a highly-trained tactical unit that travels the county checking sensitive areas and infrastructure sites.

The Morris County Sheriff’s Trends and Analysis Team (MCSTAT) works with multiple agencies, including the Prosecutor’s Office, to analyze intelligence and identify patterns of crime, Sheriff Gannon said.  Jane Recktenwald, the Sheriff’s Systems Analyst who oversees MCSTAT, said more than 1,800 checks of religious institutions in Morris County have occurred so far this year and the diligence won’t cease.

“See something, say something. The littlest thing may be the most important thing,” Analyst Recktenwald said.

Sheriff Gannon said: “We always need to keep our eye on the ball. We have good intelligence, good partnerships, good people who can receive real time intelligence, with national security clearances.”

Butler Police Chief Ciro Chimento, president of the Morris County Chiefs of Police Association, discusses security for the Jewish Chabad community and all houses of worship in Morris County on September 20, 2019.
Butler Police Chief Ciro Chimento, president of the Morris County Chiefs of Police Association, discusses security for the Jewish Chabad community and all houses of worship in Morris County on September 20, 2019.

Prosecutor’s Office Lieutenant Jan Monrad advised that Jewish leaders consider contacting the Prosecutor’s Office to have security assessments performed on their facilities.   SERT Commander Gino Fluri suggested that synagogues, at their convenience, allow SERT members to familiarize themselves with the facilities through training sessions within their walls.

Commander Fluri, along with Morris County Office of Emergency Management Director Jeffrey Paul and Sheriff’s Office Detective Lieutenant Aaron Tomasini, a certified bomb technician, K-9 handler and member of SERT, emphasized the specialized training brought to the scene of every major incident.

“Our county is integrated. When we go on a call we bring every asset to that call,” Commander Fluri said.

As Rabbi Dubinsky urged Jewish leaders to reach out to their local police departments if they haven’t already, Analyst Recktenwald said all Morris County police departments will be alerted to the upcoming High Holy Days and urged to find out what services and special events are planned.

Sheriff Gannon noted in opening remarks at the meeting that terrorism remains a concern in affluent Morris County, and that he recently met a woman in Montville who told him she survived the Jewish Holocaust.

“We can take away their fears. That’s a lot of our jobs, to take away their fears.  It’s raw, it’s local.  We’re not here to scare anybody, but we’re here to say we have it well in hand,” Sheriff Gannon said.

The next community meeting between Jewish leaders and law enforcement agencies is tentatively planned for November.

Also attending Friday’s session were Mount Olive Police Chief Steve Beecher, Wharton Police Chief David Young, Morris County Park Police Chief Gabriel DiPietro, Morris County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Mark Spitzer, Chatham Township Police Chief Thomas Miller, Rockaway Township Police Chief Martin McParland, and Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detective Captain Mark Chiarolanza and Officer Travis Somerville.