State Senator Simcha Felder is asking New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to finance the installation of “panic buttons” at all houses of worship, using money already allocated from the New York State Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes program.
The $25 million annual funding is used for nonpublic schools, day care centers, cultural museums and summer camps to install security upgrades, such as surveillance cameras, improved fencing and lighting. Following recent deadly attacks at houses of prayer around the world – including a mosque in New Zealand, a church in Sri Lanka and a synagogue in California – Felder is calling on Cuomo to expand the program to houses of prayer, and to include panic buttons, a direct alarm to emergency services in case of an attack.
It is unclear whether the executive can expand the funding to cover houses of prayer and panic buttons. Felder is asking the governor to examine whether he can do so, and if not, to push for new legislation covering this area.
“A congregation in a House of Prayer is a frighteningly easy target,” said Felder. “Our hope is to deter these hateful, violent attacks in the first place, but it is clear that New Yorkers must be prepared and protected right now. An immediate response system that is easily activated in a chaotic situation will save lives.”