Katko pushes to safeguard faith-based centers, toughen bomb threat penalties

In response to a rash of threats against Jewish Community Centers across the nation, U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) is calling for stricter federal penalties for making bomb threats and the allocation of additional funding to protect faith-based religious centers.

Katko introduced legislation on Tuesday that would provide the Department of Homeland Security $20 million to safeguard faith-based communities, and it would double the federal bomb threat penalty from five to 10 years.

“With recurrent threats to Jewish Community Centers around the country and right here in Central New York, it is vital that we act to stop and prevent these unacceptable criminal acts,” Katko said. “This bill is critical to that effort. By doubling the federal penalty for a person convicted of a bomb threat and authorizing grants to safeguard faith-based community centers, we can help to restore safety and security to our communities.”

Katko introduced the measure with U.S. Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), Brian Mast (R-FL) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV). Twenty-eight members of the House have supported the bill.

“I applaud our local Congressman John Katko and his bipartisan colleagues for introducing this much needed legislation aimed at making our facility and other Jewish community centers around the country safer,” Marci Erlebacher, the executive director of the Sam Pomeranz Jewish Community Center in Syracuse, said.

“We have been hit hard by these threats of violence and now all JCCs feel an urgent need for increased security measures. We will not be deterred from providing quality services and programs for individuals of all ages and faiths in our Central New York region.”

Last month Katko joined other lawmakers in urging the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and Federal Bureau of Investigation to address the dozens of anonymous threats targeting JCCs.