BLOOMFIELD, Connecticut — Surrounded by faith leaders, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced Wednesday that 97 nonprofit agencies across the state, including places of worship, will share $3.8 million to make security infrastructure upgrades.
The grants, which mark the first round of funding under the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program created by the General Assembly in 2020, will be used to pay for things like surveillance cameras, reinforced doors and ballistic glass. Eligible nonprofit groups could apply for up to $50,000.
“We are keenly aware of our vulnerability during these times, when anti-Muslim, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate crimes are ever increasing,” said Rabbi Debra S. Cantor, the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield.
The state in March first announced the program, which is intended to improve security at nonprofit entities that are at heightened risk of being the target of a terrorist attack, hate crime, or violent act. James Rovella, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said ultimately more than $7 million, which includes funds from a federal program, will be made available.
Many of the participants at Wednesday’s news conference with Lamont said it was unfortunate that such a program is needed. They noted recent instances of hate crimes in Connecticut, including various threats to mosques and churches, such as an intentional fire at the Diyanet Mosque in New Haven in 2019 and graffiti spray-painted on a wall of the Bethel AME Church in Bloomfield last summer.
According to the most recent FBI statistics available, 76 hate crimes were reported in Connecticut in 2019. Of those, 48 were directed against an individual’s race, ethnicity or ancestry, and 16 involved a person’s religion.
“No individual, no community should ever have to think twice or be worried about their own safety and security of themselves or their loved ones when they go and pray and connect with the beloved,” said state Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor.
“It is unfortunate, but understandable, that many people do not feel safe when they go to their synagogue, mosque or church,” said state Sen. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford, who noted how synagogues in his community have hired security guards. “This program will help not only make people feel safer, it will make them safer.”