WASHINGTON - When Jewish Community Centers in 11 states received bomb threats on Monday, the centers which often serve as nursery schools had no ability to trace the anonymous calls because of blocked phone numbers.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York on Wednesday asked the Federal Communications Commission to consider waiving a privacy rule so that JCCs could to track the callers.
Since the beginning of this year, there have been at least 69 incidents targeting 54 JCCs in 27 states. Monday’s bomb threats, reportedly the fifth wave of threats this year, included JCCs in Westchester, Binghamton, Buffalo and Albany.
“Perpetrators terrorizing Jewish communities across the country — and here in New York — should not be allowed to hide in the shadows,” Schumer said. “We cannot give these fear-mongering criminals protection when they are instilling hate and panic.”
FCC rules require telephone companies to offer the ability for callers to block their own phone numbers. Once they've done so, technological and legal hurdles make it a lengthy process for police to identify these callers, according to Schumer’s office.
If the FCC waived the rule, JCCs could provide police with caller information, giving them a jump on identifying and locating the perpetrators.
In his letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, Schumer noted that a previous FCC waiver he sought last year helped school personnel work with police when the Middletown School District of Middletown, Orange County, received numerous threatening calls.
He wrote that the simultaneous bomb threats on Monday were called into schools and JCCs in Alabama, Delaware, Florida Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, according to the JCC Association of North America, based in New York. JCCs in Long Island and Staten Island were also among those in New York that were evacuated after anonymous threats.
“As you can imagine, these attacks have traumatized the Jewish community and struck fear in homes across the country,” Schumer wrote. “We must do everything possible to ensure our religious communities feel safe from attacks against their schools, their homes, and their burial grounds.”
Nicole Gaudiano is a correspondent with USA TODAY Network's Washington Bureau.