By Jessica Easthope
Councilman Fernando Cabrera is a pastor at New Life Protestant Church in the Bronx. Just a few months ago, his place of worship, like many others in New York City, was vandalized.
“When my church got graffitied it hurt, this is my second home, this is where we have communion where we worship the Lord together, you can see they’re laughing but it’s no laughing matter,” said Councilman Cabrera who represents the city’s 14th District.
Now, Councilman Cabrera is determined to send a message and show criminals just how serious it is.
“What I’m hoping now is that the fence of protection that says If you touch this house of worship it’s going to cost you and it should cost them to the point that it will cost the house of worship,” he said.
He’s introduced legislation in the City Council that would double the fine for vandalizing a house of worship from $500 to $1,000 – on top of possible criminal charges.
“Any kind of vandalism will be covered, we want to send a message that it’s unacceptable to attack a house of worship, members feel vulnerable, they feel scared, it’s a form of intimidation, it’s a form of persecution,” said Cabrera.
Since 2016 there have been 12 churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn that have filed insurance claims over vandalism. Five churches in Queens and seven in Brooklyn – the range of cost of damage from around $600 to $25,000.
“Generosity flows through a Catholic church and then someone comes and tags them, marks them, breaks a statue or something valuable and we want to say now in New York City we’re not going to tolerate it,” Cabrera said of the vandalism that’s happened at Catholic churches.
Cabrera says the $1000 figure is significant – it’s the deductible most churches are required to pay out of pocket by insurance. In the last year several churches and schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn that were damaged and defaced didn’t go through insurance – Councilman Cabrera encourages them to make a claim – not only for protection after the fact but as a deterrent.
“If we’re going to keep stats on this and data to be able to show that we do have a real problem here it’s very important for houses of worship to report and report it to the insurance company because that also goes into a database in the city,” he said.
Councilman Cabrera’s bill will be up for a vote in the Public Safety Committee and then in the City Council in the next few weeks.