Maryland offers $3 million in security grants to places of worship

Deadly attacks over the last few years have brought fear to many places of worship — and have made security a concern.

“It’s happened to synagogues. It’s happened in churches. It’s happened … in Wisconsin. It’s happened to black churches,” said Dr. Samir Jafri of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The state of Maryland will be doing its part to lift that fear. Last week, the state announced it would provide $3 million in grant money for religious organizations looking for help in covering security costs.

Organizations can apply over the next year for the grants, which can be applied toward measures such as “training, cameras, security personnel, lighting,” said Glenn Fueston, executive director of Gov. Larry Hogan’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

The grant process was chosen, he said, so that houses of worship could ask for exactly what they need.

“They know their communities the best. They know their houses of worship the best,” Fueston said.

Among those that will be requesting aid: the Muslim Community Center. Jafri, president of the center’s board of directors, cited the number of hate-based attacks on religious groups around the world.

“It’s happened all over the world to different faith communities, and it’s horrifying,” he said.

The latest figures on hate-based crimes in Maryland date back to 2017, which is another reason Fueston said his office is working closely with religious organizations.

“We want to make sure that religious organizations are reporting these types of incidents, so that we have a better feel for where they’re happening, when they’re happening,” he said.

The idea, said Fueston, is to “get ahead of it, making sure that resources are available so that we can keep the community safe.”

As Jafri’s center looks at ways of boosting security, there is one heartening aspect to the issue, he said: a renewed sense of community. Among the many organizations along New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring — and throughout the county — there’s a strong sense of cooperation. Groups have offered to go to other houses of worship to stand watch during their services.

“I think it’s gratifying to see the communities come together in this type of way,” he said.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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