Cemetery Vandalism Could Lead To Hate Crime Registry In University City

Brett Blume (@brettblumekmox)

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (KMOX) – This month’s vandalism of a Jewish cemetery — which made national headlines and prompted a visit from Vice President Mike Pence — might also have a lasting impact for laws in University City.

The Councilman of the 3rd Ward, Rod Jennings, is the measure’s sponsor.

“I would hope that somebody who’s thinking about attacking one of our synagogues, one of our mosques or one of our churches would realize that if they’re caught, this will follow them for life,” Jennings explained. “We will know who they are, where they are, where they’re going. If they move into another community, they’ll be watching.”

Related story: Muslim Effort to Aid Missouri Jewish Cemetery Tops $136,000

Jennings said it would work in much the same way as the sex offender registry.

It’s an idea heartily endorsed by Tracy Goldstein, who organized a vigil at the Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery last week.

“I support this just like I would if one of my neighbors were to be a predator against children,” she said. “They may be a predator against me for being Jewish, anybody for being black for being gay, and I think that’s really helpful information.”

Andrew Roberts agreed and said he supports the idea of a hate crime database, but he told council members to make sure it has some teeth.

“That’s my chief concern, that this bill doesn’t go far enough in preventing hate crimes in the future,” Roberts said. “I’m worried that if we pass it we might just say ‘Well that’s enough, we did it.'”

Jennings hopes this idea catches on in other area municipalities and possibly even across the nation, with the idea of creating a far-reaching net to catch anyone who takes part in hate crimes.

“My intent basically is to provide protection in a way that we could deter hate crimes against not only Jews, but Muslims, blacks, whites, the LGBT community — anybody basically that could be attacked in a hate crime,” Jennings said.

A vote on the measure is expected at the March 13th meeting of the University City Council.

Meanwhile, University City police report there’s “no new information” in the effort to track down those responsible for damaging nearly 200 grave markers at Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery, and the search for a suspect or suspects continues.

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