(TRENTON) – The alarming increase in the numbers of reported incidents of hate, bigotry and faith-based violence prompted a bill — sponsored by Assembly members Annette Quijano and Valerie Vainieri Huttle– aiming to help non-profit organizations protect themselves against acts of terror, threats and attacks.
The measure (A-3906) was recently approved, 78-0, by the full Assembly.
“The Mosque attack in New York last year led to threats for many Islamic worship centers across the country and here in New Jersey. The same has happened for synagogues and Jewish community centers after the tragic shooting last weekend in Pittsburgh,” said Quijano (D-Union), who is chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “Non-profit organizations that support residents within our communities are at risk of becoming targets of hate and discrimination more and more these days.
Quijano is the sponsor of the law that created the “New Jersey Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program” in the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness to provide grant funding for security personnel. Her concern for Jewish and Muslim groups in her district in light of the escalation of threats in New Jersey and throughout the country last year was the impetus for the legislation.
“With the potential of threats increasing at events and online, certain organizations would benefit from additional funding to bolster security measures. This measure helps keep organizations, their staff, and the people they serve safe,” added Quijano.
“Acts of hate, bigotry and faith-based attacks are very real today and a daily challenge for houses of worship, community centers, family services agencies and other non-profit institutions,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Helping these institutions protect themselves should remain an ongoing priority of the state.”
The New Jersey Attorney General reported that, in 2016, bias and hates crimes in New Jersey increased from 14 percent to 417 percent. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the greatest increase in religious-based crimes was against Muslims, an increase of 19 percent from 2015 to 2016.
In addition, the Anti-Defamation League’s “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” highlighted that these incidents rose 32 percent in 2017 in New Jersey and occurred in almost every county. New Jersey had the third highest number of such incidents reported in the nation. Nationally, in 2107, there was a 57 percent increase from 2016 in anti-Semitic incidents and, for the first time, anti-Semitism was reported in all 50 states.
The Quijano and Vainieri Huttle bill amends the three-year “New Jersey Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program” to permit eligible nonprofit organizations to acquire target hardening equipment in addition to hiring permanent or temporary security personnel, in order to reduce vulnerability to threats, attacks, and other violent acts. Examples of target hardening equipment are cameras, barriers, and cybersecurity programs.
The bill would establish a maximum grant award of $50,000 per target hardening equipment application. Applicants are permitted to apply for either personnel or equipment grants, or both, in each year of the pilot program, but OHSP may only award funds for either personnel or equipment.
The bill was amended in the Senate to provide for administrative costs; it will now return to the Assembly for final legislative approval.