ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Monday toughening penalties for bomb threats at community centers, a direct response to the rash of threats at Jewish Community Centers earlier this year.
The new law will allow prosecutors to charge threat-makers with a "public order" offense if they falsely report a bomb at a community center, a designation that kicks in a higher-level crime.
At a minimum, public order offenses are a class A misdemeanor, though they often rise to the level of felonies depending on the crime.
"These despicable acts spread fear and terror across entire communities, and by signing this measure, we will give law enforcement more tools to prosecute hatemongers and treat these crimes with the seriousness they deserve," Cuomo said in a statement.
The new law takes effect in 90 days.
State lawmakers approved the bill unanimously in June after Jewish Community Centers across the country received repeated bomb threats beginning in January, forcing them to evacuate for police sweeps and putting their members on edge.
Among the JCCs that received threats were those in Brighton, Monroe County; and New Rochelle and Tarrytown in Westchester County.
The bill makes a minor wording change to the state's penal law, adding "community centers" to a list of places considered public for criminal law purposes -- such as schools, playgrounds and highways.
It was sponsored by Sen. Patrick Gallivan, R-Elma, Erie County, and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, Westchester County.
"Cracking down on threats to public spaces will create a greater sense of security and safety for our children and our families," Gallivan said in a statement.