Security training targets bombs, hate crimes

Tucson Police Officer Rob McCusker delivered a community training on suspicious package recognition at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona on June 13. With about 25 in attendance, the explosives and hazardous device technician discussed ways to recognize potential dangers and manage bomb threats, and suggestions for managing lockdowns and evacuations. Members of TPD’s Hate Crimes and Bias-based Incidents division, which focuses its efforts on local minority communities, accompanied him.

They noted that the Arizona Revised Statutes do not include a stand-alone criminal violation for hate crimes. Instead, ARS 13-701 provides an option for enhanced sentencing when sufficient evidence exists that a defendant committed a felony crime while motivated by either bias towards the victim’s identity in a group or the defendant’s perception of a victim’s identity in a group listed in ARS 41-1750.

The state statute does not apply to criminals who commit misdemeanors like vandalism or break local ordinances. However, the City of Tucson’s hate crime ordinance does. The city passed the code in March 2017 to heightened penalties for people who commit hate crimes, adding health care facilities to the list of places like houses of worship, schools, and cemeteries under institutional vandalism.

At that time, Tucson Council member Steve Kozachik said that the measure, introduced by Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, was a response to a rise in hate crimes since 2016. “We’ve had swastikas painted on walls at some of the high schools in midtown,” said Kozachik, noting other incidents at the Tucson Islamic Center and Planned Parenthood. “We’re pretty simply just sending a message that, in Tucson, there’s zero tolerance for behavior that targets people based on who they are or what they look like or what religious convictions they have.”

Paul Patterson, JFSA’s community security consultant, arranged the community security training. Local law enforcement, he said, “has been happy to work with us and help. We are thankful to have them.” Future collaborative community trainings are being planned.

For further information, McCusker referred participants to TPD Explosive and Hazardous Device Detail point of contact Sgt. Tim Froebe at timothy.froebe@tucsonaz.gov or 837-7388. Patterson can be reached at ppatterson@jewishtucson.org.