TENAFLY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A bill is now being considered in New Jersey that would put bomb threats on par with murder.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reports, fake bomb threats have created panic, wasted resources and frustrated communities.
“This kind of behavior creates a terrorizing effect on a community,” CEO of Kaplen JCC on the Palisades Jordan Shenker said.
Chopper 2 video from January shows police officers moving into the Jewish Community Center in Tenafly, New Jersey after a threat.
Now, New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson is taking action. He introduced a bill to increase the penalties for fake bomb threats.
“What was before considered to be a misdemeanor, elevates one degree to a fourth degree crime,” he told Baker.
“If they catch them, they should be punished of course. It’s terrible,” a woman added.
Johnson said the bill is a response to the string of threats aimed at Jewish community centers, temples and schools earlier this year.
“If a person feels he or she can go out and call in a bomb threat, either as a hoax or to intimidate a group of people, they’ll think twice because the penalty is elevated,” he said.
There were 157 anti-Semitic incidents last year and 24, so far, this year, which is why Jewish leaders are urging legislators to pass the bill.
“We received three threats over a seven-week period of time,” Shenker said.
He said the JCC takes the threats very seriously, even hiring armed guards at an added expense.
“There was also a strong sense of resiliency. We are here to serve and build community, and that’s what we do every day,” he said. “Our community came together to say, ‘we’re not going to stand for this.”
The proposal calls for up to 30 years in prison for making threats that are found to be part of bias intimidation.
Police say it’s still extremely difficult to trace automated calls like the majority of threats phoned in to schools in the area.