In response to recent incidents of hate, bigotry and faith-based violence against nonprofit groups in New Jersey and across the country, legislation to help nonprofits protect themselves against terror threats and attacks was signed into law on Tuesday by the Governor. The bill was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Jamel Holley and Robert Karabinchak.
“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.”
As a result of her concern for Jewish and Muslim groups in her district in light of recent threats, Quijano was inspired to sponsor the law that created the “New Jersey Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program” in the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness which provides grant funding for security personnel.
“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.
The new law (formerly bill A-3906) 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.
“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.
“The abominable acts of terror against Muslim and Jewish communities over the last few years were reprehensible and should never be accepted as the new norm for America,” said Holley (D-Union), who is Vice-Chair of Assembly Homeland Security Committee. “No one should ever live in fear of this happening to their community centers or churches. Supporting the non-profit organizations in this way is important to protecting our residents and communities.”
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 rise of hate and bias crimes in this state and nation is a disheartening reality in today’s world,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “This new statute provides necessary support to New Jersey’s non-profits and vulnerable faith communities who would feel the need to put in place security measures for their staff and the people they serve.”
The law establishes 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 measure was unanimously approved by the Assembly and Senate in December.