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Gov. Scott requests more security at religious institutions

Florida governor also calls for Jewish day school security funding to be doubled

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Rick Scott has ordered enhanced security for religious institutions and additional security funding for Jewish day schools in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead.

Scott was at the Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville for a voting rally Friday, a day after the governor's office issued a release saying Scott sent a letter to Florida’s sheriffs and police chiefs. In the letter, Scott asked them to provide each religious institution in their community the ability to request a threat and security assessment. 

He asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to meet with religious leaders at their request to provide information on keeping their members safe.

READ: Gov. Rick Scott's letter to sheriffs, police chiefs

Scott also wants the Florida Legislature to double Jewish day school security funding from $2 million to $4 million for this school year. He said that money will help ensure students and staff at Jewish day schools are safe following the attack in Pittsburgh.

Rabbi Shaya Hauptman, head of school at Torah Academy of Jacksonville, told News4Jax Friday he's pleased with the move.

"We can not only ensure that our students have an environment where there is excellence in their education and academics but on top of that, they’re safe, the parents feel that sense of security, our staff feels a sense of security," Hauptman said. "It really makes a difference."

Others throughout Jacksonville also support Scott's requests.

"I think it's a great idea," Judy Dutilly said. "It adds more protection for people."

On Saturday, following the shooting in Pittsburgh, Scott directed the Florida Highway Patrol to increase state trooper patrols at religious institutions across Florida. 

"I think if we're keeping people safe, it's a good idea," Bruce Allen said of the governor's requests.

As for what will be the next step, state Rep. Randy Fine, who is Jewish, told Florida Politics that finding that extra $2 million in the budget could be difficult but if they’re able to move some money around without being in session, he would support that.

News4Jax asked several sheriff's offices in the Northeast Florida area how they plan to handle threat and security assessments at religious institutions, as requested by Scott. 

Clay County, Nassau County and St. Johns County sheriff's offices responded, saying they already provide threat and security assessments for local worship centers who request them and will adjust accordingly, if needed, to meet the governor’s request. 

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office said, "We are reaching out to our local religious organizations and institutions to let them know they can schedule a threat and security assessment by one of our deputies. Religious institutions that would like to take advantage of this opportunity are asked to contact Master Sgt. Tommy Owens at 386-326-2760.

"For more than a year we have worked with many of our churches and other religious organizations to have a threat and security assessment done, especially in the aftermath of other shootings at religious facilities. Prior to Gov. Rick Scott's letter, in the past few months we completed assessments at two Palatka based churches."

About the Authors:

Florida-born multi-media journalist pays special attention to issues in St. Johns County.