On Wednesday evening, Bal Harbour, Florida became the first municipality in the country to implement an ordinance that provides law enforcement with a definition of anti-Semitism, enabling them to investigate such incidents as hate crimes.
Originally passed last month, a second public reading is required by the town bylaws before it can become law. By unanimous vote, the proposed ordinance became law and went into effect immediately upon passage.
“I applaud the Bal Harbour Village Council for standing with me and supporting the passage of this historic ordinance,” said Mayor Gabriel Groisman. “This ordinance protects the interests of our residents by providing our law enforcement officers a clear definition of anti-Semitism, thereby helping to ascertain the intent of persons who engage in unlawful activities, such as assault or vandalism.”
The new law allows law enforcement to use the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism as a guideline, while at the same time permitting police to use their discretion in determining whether an incident can be classified as a hate crime.
“Government has a responsibility to protect citizens from hate crimes. The statistics show that Jews remain among the most vulnerable of all religious communities to such crime,” explained Groisman. “Valid monitoring, investigating, and effective law enforcement start with uniform definitions. The use of a uniform definition will serve to enhance clarity of policy and predictability of law enforcement; improve prevention by increasing consistency; and facilitate comparison of intervention and prevention programs across jurisdictions and data collections.”
A small Florida town with a population ranging from 2,500 to 8,000 (depending on the time of year), Bal Harbour is not new to combating anti-Semitism.
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