HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) — Pennsylvania will provide millions of dollars in grants to protect houses of worship and other potentially targeted community organizations from hate crimes, a program inspired by the deadly mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue a year ago.
The Tree of Life attack in Pittsburgh was not the first assault on a religious facility, but it brought home to state lawmakers how vulnerable churches, mosques, and synagogues are to those inspired by hate.
“We all came together and recognized the need to enhance security at a number of these facilities,” Pennsylvania Sen. Jay Costa, a Forest Hills Democrat, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday.
Led by Costa and PA Rep. Dan Frankel — a Squirrel Hill Democrat — the General Assembly just passed a bill to provide security grants of up to $150,000 to churches, mosques, and synagogues and other institutions subjected to hate crimes. Costa and Frankel both represent the Tree of Life’s district.
“If you are part of a group that is a biased motivated category, according to the FBI, your organization will be able to seek grants from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency,” said Costa. “The grants will range from $5,000 to $150,000, and they will be available through this process, an application process.”
The grants, which must be matched by the applying institution, can be used for such things as:
- Planning, threat awareness, and response training
- Equipment and technology such as metal detectors, lighting, surveillance, communications systems, and locking devices
- Vulnerability and threat assessments
- Specialty-trained canines
- Other upgrades to existing structures that enhance safety and security
The initial funding for these grants, through June of 2020, is $5 million before a boost to $10 million in the next fiscal year.
“I think my colleagues were moved by what took place in Pittsburgh a year ago,” added Frankel.
Governor Wolf is expected to sign the legislation shortly.
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