CRANBURY: Library’s surveillance policy is discussed

By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – The Board of Education discussed the library’s surveillance policy and raised a concern over an individual who has been seen frequently visiting the library recently during its meeting Tuesday night.
“There was mention of an individual who has been frequenting the library who pretty much spends the entire day there over the last few days,” said board member and policy committee liaison Ash Hadcap.
Principal Dr. Susan Genco questioned if the person was an adult or a student.
“He hasn’t caused any issue or disturbance,” Mr. Hadap said. “He hasn’t approached any patrons. He hasn’t asked about any students. He hasn’t been an issue whatsoever. Having said, that we just said to Marilynn (Mullen) to talk to the police.”
Ms. Mullen is the director of the public library.
“There is a conjecture that this might be a homeless individual and so he might be looking for somewhere to hang out,” Mr. Hadap said. “It’s a sad situation, but I think our responsibility is to the kids. We want to make sure that there is no issue there.”
Dr. Genco said it was the first she was hearing about the issue and after the meeting, planned to contact Chief of Police Rickey Varga on her way home.
“I did speak with Dr. Genco last evening,” said Chief Varga in an email on Wednesday. “To my knowledge, we did not have any reports of suspicious persons or activities at the Cranbury Library over the last couple of weeks.”
He said that he really doesn’t have any facts regarding what made the staff feel that this person was suspicious, so it would be unfair for himself or Dr. Genco to comment on specifics at this point.
“Certainly someone has a right to research, read, etc. in a public library for long periods of time,” he said. “That alone would not make a person suspicious. But as I previously said, I just don’t have any facts that would give me a position of knowledge to speak as to why, if at all, this person raised attention. Along with Dr. Genco we will certainly look into the issue.”
“If You See Something, Say Something” is a national campaign that raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, as well as the importance of reporting suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement, according to the Department of Homeland Security website.
Informed, alert communities play a critical role in keeping our nation safe, according to its website.
Suspicious activity is any observed behavior that could indicate terrorism or terrorism-related crime. This includes, but is not limited to: Unusual items or situations – A vehicle is parked in an odd location, a package/luggage is unattended, a window/door is open that is usually closed, or other out-of-the-ordinary situations occur; Eliciting information – A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc; Observation/surveillance -Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation (particularly in concealed locations); unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (e.g., with binoculars or video camera); taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.
Some of these activities could be innocent — it’s up to law enforcement to determine whether the behavior warrants investigation. The activities listed are not all-inclusive, but have been compiled based on studies of pre-operational aspects of both successful and thwarted terrorist events over several years, according to its website.
Public safety is everyone’s responsibility. If you see suspicious activity, report it to local law enforcement or a person of authority. Describe specifically what you observed, including who or what you saw; when you saw it; where it occurred; and why it’s suspicious, according to its website.