The bill faces an unclear path in the Legislature. (Photo by Chris Boswell/Getty Images)
A bill that would upgrade penalties for creating a false public alarm is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday.
The measure (A724) would also add creating a false public alarm to the list of bias intimidation crimes, making it a third-degree crime punishable by up to five years in jail and a maximum fine of $15,000.
Under current law, creating a false public alarm can range from a crime in the fourth degree to the first degree. If it’s found to be part of bias intimidation — targeting race, religion, gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity — the bill would automatically increase the penalties.
Introduced in February 2020, the legislation was prompted by a series of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers. According to a 2017 NJ.com report, more than 100 calls were made over the span of two months threatening Jewish centers nationwide, including to a preschool in Marlboro Township and Jewish community centers in West Orange, Edison, Scotch Plains, and Tenafly.
It passed the full Assembly unanimously in February 2020. Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle and Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, both Bergen County Democrats, are primary sponsors of the bill.
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