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Illustration by Security Management

U.S. States Increase Security Funding in Response to Hate Crimes

As Hanukkah began, a spate of antisemitic attacks were reported in New York City which culminated in a machete attack at a celebration at a rabbi’s house just across the George Washington Bridge outside of the city. Two weeks prior, a man and a woman opened gunfire in a Jewish market in Jersey City, killing four people before being killed themselves. According to an NBC News report, these attacks are part of a larger pattern of increasing anti-Semitic violence.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a policy reaction to the violence: the U.S. state will earmark $45 million to bolster security at religious schools and institutions.

“The recent rash of anti-Semitic and other hate-fueled attacks in New York and across the nation are understandably causing anxiety, but we will not be intimated,” Cuomo said at a Sunday rally. “In New York we stand up to those who try to sow division and fear, and this new funding will provide religious and cultural institutions the support they need to help protect themselves and keep people safe.”

The funds will be made available through a grant program for religious institutions.

While not at the same scale, the state of Massachusetts also acknowledged the rise in hate crimes on Monday by adding $1 million to its Nonprofit Security Grant Program to bring the total to $1.5 million in grants available to churches, synagogues, and mosques for security upgrades, such as cameras, lighting, or fencing.

In 2017, the ASIS Cultural Properties Council published Recommended Best Practices for Securing Houses of Worship Around the World for People of all Faiths, which provides a veritable checklist of security protocols, procedures, and practices for religious institutions. 

“Each congregation is tasked with the challenge of creating a safe place to worship," according to the guide. "Various security precautions can be implemented in a non-intrusive manner, completely unknown and unobserved by congregants. For example, implementing a Welcoming Committee that includes individuals observing and welcoming people as they enter the facility will basically be unnoticed as a security program, yet it is highly effective when the members are trained in security detection.”

Security at houses of worship needs to be much more than equipment. In "House of Worship Security Funding Extends Beyond Grants," Paul Goldenberg, a senior fellow with the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience with Rutgers University, says “religious institutions around the country are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on video cameras. Those video cameras will only provide the police with essential information as to who and how an act of violence was perpetrated against your institution. If you don’t make the investment to train your staff on how to monitor those cameras or what to look for as it relates to a suspicious incident, then those cameras will only help find the bad people who have done bad things; they may not help prevent an attack.”

In addition, ASIS International has a dedicated page of resources on school safety and security.