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Valley police ramp up security at mosques after New Zealand attacks

This photo shows the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, Monday, May 4, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Authorities across the Phoenix area are stepping up security at mosques on Friday in the wake of two mass shootings on the Muslim places of worship in New Zealand.

Usama Shami, the president of the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, told KTAR News 92.3 FM that he got assurances that officers would send patrol cars to various mosques.

At least 49 people were killed and dozens more were hurt in mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch full of worshipers attending Friday prayers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.”

One man was arrested and charged with murder in what appeared to be a carefully planned racist attack. Police also defused explosive devices in a car.

Two other armed suspects were being held in custody. Police said they were trying to determine how they might be involved.

Trooper Kameron Lee with the Arizona Department of Public Safety told KTAR News that anyone who sees something out of the usual should report it immediately.

“People know what’s normal and what’s not. Depending on where you live, the places you frequent, people that are acting not normal, erratically,” Lee said.

“Maybe wearing clothing that doesn’t fit this time of year. It’s going to be little things that’s going to piece together something big.’

Phoenix Sgt. Tommy Thompson said in a statement to KTAR News that his officers are reminded to “be aware of all houses of worship in their areas and pay increased attention to those locations.”

Tempe police Sgt. Matt Feddeler said his officers are “encouraged to know where all houses of worship are in their area.

“As of now we have a request for off duty officers at locations (in) Tempe,” he told KTAR News. “We will continue to work with the public to reduce harm in Tempe.”

Feddeler also said they have not had threats in the city.

Mesa police Detective Esteban Flores said the department has not received any requests for added security at local mosques, but said officers are prepared to do so “if any requests come in or if we believe it is necessary to protect our community.”

Chandler police Sgt. Daniel Mejia said his department has increased patrols at local centers throughout the weekend.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross, Nailea Leon Madison Spence and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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