This week the weekly phone in bomb threat to multiple Jewish Community Centers and synagogues came a day early. Instead of Tuesday, the preferred day for the last several week’s worth of calls, the caller moved it to Monday. Perhaps to capture the festive spirit of Presidents’ Day.
WHITEFISH BAY — Officials with the Village of Whitefish Bay say a bomb threat was called into the Jewish Community Center at 10:08 a.m. on Monday, February 20th.
The Jewish Community Center posted on its Facebook page, Twitter account and its website that the facility was “safely evacuated.”
A limited number of students were at the center because of the holiday. Other guests who were on site using the gym and pool facilities were also evacuated.
Police say the center was cleared by bomb sniffing dogs. The “all clear” was issued around 12:30 p.m. — after the sweep of the building.
This appears to be one of several threats made to Jewish community centers around the country on Monday.
The Jewish Community Ctr. in Highland Park was evacuated due to a bomb threat. Students moved to nearby fire station while building cleared.
— St. Paul Police PIO (@sppdPIO) February 20, 2017
SPPD did not find any bombs or dangerous devices at Highland Park Jewish Community Center. Squads clearing scene now, center is re-opening.
— St. Paul Police PIO (@sppdPIO) February 20, 2017
There was also a threat called into the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, AL.
The Levite Jewish Community Center was briefly evacuated Monday morning after receiving a bomb threat. Many parents picked their children up from the child care facility.
Authorities have given the all-clear now, and staff and students are now back in the building.
A Birmingham police officer said there have been several of these threats across the U.S. today.
The JCC has received bomb threats before, including one in mid-January.
The FBI has been investigating threats to Jewish centers in Alabama and several other states.
Both the Whitefish Bay and Birmingham JCCs received similar phoned in threats in January.
Here’s what I think the security issues are going forward:
1) We’ve got some knucklehead who gets his gratification calling these in and seeing the news coverage. He may or may not be a hard core anti-Semite, but he’s basically in it for ego gratification. And based on decades of criminological research into deviance, delinquency, and offending, it is highly likely it is a he. So step up your game ladies! He may or may not even be in the US, given VOIP technology. And he may never intend to do anything but make these calls.
2) Or he intends to eventually escalate. Specifically after he feels that he has made enough of these, or other copycats have, to create a sense of complacency for the folks at the JCCs and synagogues. Basically emergency alert fatigue. At that point he actually plants a bomb at one of these locations because he figures he’s got a reasonable expectation of casualties because the threats have become commonplace and are no longer being taken seriously.
3) Or, even worse, he never originally intended to escalate, but because the threats have become commonplace the coverage drops way off. He doesn’t get his gratification and as a result escalates in order to get his rush. Basic addictive behavior pattern. Also, serial criminal pattern.
4) Or, also even worse, he never intends to escalate beyond calling in the threats, but someone else who does want to do real, physical damage to property and harm to people does. This individual or individuals waits until the coverage begins to drop off because the calls are every week or every other week like clockwork and the local news decides it needs to cover something more important. And then this person that wants to cause real harm and actually hurt people decides its time to strike because complacency has set in and some synagogue or JCC isn’t going to take the threat as seriously.
And I fully expect that this pattern will at some point be fully extended to mosques and Hispanic and Asian churches, as well as Sikh temples. I know that the Hispanic and Asian churches in my area have seen an increase in both vandalism and threats, just as the synagogues and mosques have, because they are viewed as immigrant places (of worship) and therefore acceptable targets despite being churches.
Updated at 6:15 PM EST
Thanks to commenter Timurid, this also happened today:
— Joe Lamie (@GIJoter) February 20, 2017
I cannot emphasize enough just how bad this is. Not the property damage, in and of itself that’s bad, but because ground that has been the site of violence cannot be sanctified/re-sanctified. Provided that this is just cosmetic damage to the headstones – defacing, being knocked over, etc – there should be no problem. But if the graves themselves have been desecrated, then it will require reburials and the spaces will never be able to be reused as Judaism prohibits reusing a grave. This means that if someone has to be reburied in another plot, then the final resting place and marker/memorial will either be aware from the remainder of their relations graves or everyone will have to be relocated. This is not only traumatic for the living, but becomes prohibitively expensive to deal with.