Interfaith leaders, law enforcement discuss preparedness for hate crimes

Tim Jimenez
November 13, 2018 - 12:41 pm
The National Constitution Center brought religious and law enforcement leaders together.

Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In a report released Tuesday, the FBI said there was a 17 percent jump in hate crimes reported last year. While 60 percent of the crimes were related to race and ethnicity, 20 percent were connected to religion. 

Coincidentally, an event at the National Constitution Center Tuesday morning focusing on hate crimes and safety at places of worship brought religious and law enforcement leaders together. The event, called "Securing Sacred Spaces and Places" and representing 160 religous institutions, was planned months before the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. 

And with that massacre so fresh, organizers say the need to get rabbis, priests, imams and others on the same page with law enforcement officers and prosecutors has grown. 

David Mink, from B'Nai Abraham Chabad in Society Hill, says he's always looking for new ideas to keep his congregation safe. 

"We started a while ago. We've had an assessment of our property, and we've increased surveillance cameras and things like that, and there's more things we can do," Mink said. 

While there has been a lot of support for the Jewish community after Pittsburgh, ADL Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer said the flip side has been ugly. 

"Our office has received, in the last two-and-a-half weeks since Pittsburgh, an increased number of incidents of vandalism in particular," Baron-Baer said.

She says it's hard to tell if the uptick is because more people are being vigilant or if more are trying to send their message of hate.

Indeed, Deputy U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen said that, even though crime is down overall, hate crimes are not. 

"We need people in the community to stay vigilant," Lappen said. "If they see something going on that seems to be threatening on social media or elsewhere, they have to act." 

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross said everyone needs to be ready for just about anything. 

"We can't predict, as sad as it is, when the next incident may happen but we can prepare. And that's critical so that people are ready to the extent that they can be and they know how to act."

The interfaith message is important, says Imam Kenneth Nuriddin from Philadelphia Masjid.

"If there's a fire in my neighbor's house, what's gonna keep it from coming to my house?" Nuriddin said. "So, I have to help him put his fire out so the fire doesn't spread."