State Does More to Protect Communities at Risk From Hate Crimes

Posted: July 24, 2019

               Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac) is excited to announce New York State’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes Grant Program has been enhanced with an additional $20 million to further a matching grant option.  The program provides new capital funding to support safety and security projects at nonpublic schools, day camps and cultural museums at risk of hate crimes or attacks because of their ideology, beliefs or mission. 

This past May, in light of growing attacks at houses of worship around our nation and the world, Assemblyman Byrne and Sen. Pete Harckham wrote to Gov. Cuomo and the Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services requesting the program be expanded to make all houses of worship eligible to apply. Assemblyman Byrne has also introduced legislation (A.7852) which would make this change in statute. The proposal has broad bipartisan support with cosponsors from both the Republican and Democratic conferences in the AssemblySen. Harckham will soon be introducing the same legislation in the Senate.

            “Everyone should be able to worship and pray in peace,” said Byrne. “The rise of violence in places of worship throughout our nation and across the globe has made additional assistance, such as this funding, necessary. This is a program that I strongly support, but I would still like to see this expanded so that all houses of worship could be eligible to apply. I am hopeful that securing this additional funding is a step in the right direction toward expanding this program in the near future.”

            Sen. Harckham added, “Sadly, houses of worship and other programs run by religious institutions have become more frequent targets around the nation and throughout the world. We need to be pro-active in New York in improving security measures at these vulnerable locations. I’m pleased that another $20 million in funding has been provided so that more programs affiliated with religious institutions can strengthen their security measures.”

In the past few years, breaking news reports from attacks at places of worship all over our nation and around our world, such as First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas; Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand; as well as the attacks that killed hundreds of people attending church service Easter morning in Sri Lanka, have reminded people what violent extreme hatred can do.  Whether the attacks are made by a crazed ideological fanatic or a psychopath, these sacred places have become greater targets for domestic terrorism and hate. While we remain fortunate that these types of attacks have not happened within our state, we are not immune to hatred and New Yorkers crave action.  This increased funding and hopeful expansion of the program is one way our state is answering that call to action.