Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed into law an ethnic intimidation bill introduced after the vandalism of some 175 headstones at a local Jewish cemetery.
The Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism bill signed last week says that fines for desecrating objects will be applied to each individual act of vandalizing a headstone, grave marker or gravesite, according to the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.
The fine for damaging just one headstone is $2,000. For a third violation, vandals can be imprisoned for 30 days.
The bill was introduced by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, in an effort to amend the city ordinance dealing with hate crimes. It applies to all cemeteries in Philadelphia.
He told the Exponent that he introduced the bill “to send a clear message that these hate crimes will not be tolerated.”
“We should not be dealing with any forms of hate and discrimination. Those who engage in these types of acts are cowards,” he also said.
The damage to about 175 gravestones at the Mount Carmel Cemetery, in Wissinoming, a neighborhood in the northeast of the city, was discovered in late February, days after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was vandalized. No suspects have been identified.
The Fox affiliate in St. Louis reported on Wednesday that plans are underway to improve security at Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis.
Some $247,000 was collected by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis through donors and an endowment to pay for security upgrades at the city’s seven Jewish cemeteries.
Fencing, lighting, and security cameras were among the items reviewed by a professional security company that consulted with the Federation, according to Fox.
Some 154 headstones were toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in St, Louis in early February. No suspects have been identified in the case, and police so far have not classified the attack as a hate crime.