NJ Senate Votes for More Security Funding for Vulnerable Organizations After Recent Bias Attacks

Update: (1/16/2020 8:34 a.m.) Governor Phil Murphy signed two bills yesterday to provide security funding for non-profit organizations at risk of terror attacks and expand the definition of domestic terrorism following the December 2019 attacks in Jersey City. A6123 supplements the FY2020 Appropriations Act to provide funding toward bolstering security measures at eligible non-profit organizations, while A3087 expands the definition of the crime of terrorism in New Jersey law.

TRENTON, N.J. – Reacting to the increase in bias-inspired attacks on churches, synagogues, mosques, and social service organizations, a senate committee today approved a bill to provide additional support for security for vulnerable organizations.

The bill, S-4347, was authored by Senator Joe Cryan and Senate President Steve Sweeney, and will provide an additional $1 million of funding which would double this year’s funding to $2 million for the “New Jersey Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program,” which provides grants to protect places of worship and other vulnerable organizations from violence by funding additional security measures. The number of applicants has increased dramatically as bias incidents have grown in recent times.

Cryan, who previously served as sheriff of Union Couny, said the funding will help improve security that “protects the facilities, their staffs, and the people they serve with equipment and personnel.”

“We have witnessed a disturbing increase in the number of incidents of hate and bigotry based on race, religion, and ethnicity,” said Cryan (D-Union). “We can’t ignore these threats and we should not tolerate any acts of violence or intimidation. These incidents are a daily challenge for houses of worship, community centers, family and children services agencies, and other non-profit institutions that are most vulnerable.”

“No individual, group, or organization should be left vulnerable to any threats or acts of violence because of their race, religion or heritage,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “Places of worship and any other locations that bring people together will be better protected with this support. We won’t allow bias or hate to intimidate anyone from practicing their religion or honoring their ethnic pride.”

Cryan also sponsored a 2019 law expanding the scope of the grant program to include “target hardening” equipment, such as cameras, barriers, and cyber-security measures, and to hire security personnel.  

New Jersey reported 561 hate crimes in 2018, marking the third consecutive year that such crimes rose in the state, according to an annual FBI report. The number of bias incidents in New Jersey in 2019 surpassed the previous year’s total and is expected to be the highest since at least 2011, the NJ Attorney General has said.

The bill was approved by the Senate Budget Committee 13-0.