WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- With the sudden rise of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers across the nation, including several targeting centers in Westchester, State Sen. George Latimer (D-Westchester) is introducing legislation to make those phone calls a hate crime.
"Targeting something simply because it has a religion in its name and mission is really the definition of hate," Latimer said.
Under existing law, certain crimes, if committed specifically because of beliefs regarding race, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation, can be prosecuted as “hate crimes." Although many public places are currently covered by the law, community centers with a religious affiliation are not included.
Westchester County received two threats within a matter of hours on Monday, Feb. 27 in Tarrytown and New Rochelle. In addition, over the course of four dates in January and February, 53 JCCs in 26 states and one Canadian province received a total of 68 phoned-in calls.
"By prosecuting these charges as hate crimes, the punishment is made more severe," he added.
The threats have caused outrage amid the Jewish community across the country with Jewish leaders meeting with everyone from the director of the FBI to Homeland security in an effort to find the people behind them.
One man was arrested last week for making threats in the New York City area in an effort to get revenge against an ex-girlfriend, but hundreds of other calls remain unsolved.
If enacted, the law would not only apply to Jewish Community Centers, but to all community centers with religious affiliation.