Photo Credit: Senator Simcha Felder
State Senator Simcha Felder

The bad news on Monday, January 9, was that as many as 16 Jewish centers in the United States were forced to evacuate. Preschoolers in those locales were marched outside in the dead of winter because someone had threatened to blow up the place where they go to play each day. Put yourself in those innocent children’s shoes for a moment. Or in the shoes of their parents.

The good news was that no one was injured or hurt, thank God. At least not physically hurt. But how will this incident impact these children and their families for years to come? And how vulnerable do you and your children feel now?

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Of course we all feel fortunate when a threat turns out to be only a threat, or when an act of intended terror is foiled. We feel fortunate because we’ve seen the results of the real thing too many times. We’ve seen terrorists continue to attack innocent people (more frequently than ever), not only throughout the world but also right here in the United States. Don’t think for a moment that you or anyone else is safe.

Last week’s comparatively benign incident leaves us with many things to consider: What is the quality of the current security at our schools? What are the qualifications of security personnel? We know that they’re not armed, and that they lack police training. So how prepared or even eager would they be to deal with a genuine emergency?

It took our national catastrophe on September 11 to open the eyes of those who hadn’t realized just how dangerous is the time we live in. Nevertheless, we haven’t begun to thoroughly address the security needs in our city and state.

In Israel, people have a healthier respect for real security than those of us in New York appear to. Security guards at Israeli schools are armed and trained. Unfortunately, this was a natural result of living with increasing terror attacks. Israelis learned to face up to reality.

But terror attacks have increased here too. We live in different times from the days when our parents saw us off at the bus stop. Law enforcement’s ability to find a terrorist after an incident may be terrific, but we need to face reality with a serious, uncompromising commitment to proactive security.

Consider this: Is there an office building in New York City where you can just waltz in, get on an elevator and go anywhere you want without an appointment or proper identification? Try it sometime and find out. The reception desk confirms your appointment and often takes your picture. But at most schools you just ring a bell and are buzzed in. Often without any identification whatsoever.

New York City spends money on nonsense. Want an example? Over $5 million in security costs last year just so people could watch a ball drop on New Year’s Eve.

How much do ticker-tape parades cost taxpayers? What does this say about priorities?

Speaking of money, did you ever watch a bank or store receive its money? It arrives in an armored vehicle with several armed professionals carrying semi-automatics protecting the cash.

When I’ve suggested mandating better security for all New York City schools –providing our children with armed, trained, experienced professionals who would better protect them – I’ve been told that it’s too expensive.

So tell me – How much are our children worth?

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New York State Senator Simcha Felder serves the 17th Senate District, which includes Boro Park, Flatbush, Midwood, Kensington, and parts of Bensonhurst and Sunset Park. Follow him on Twitter @NYSenatorFelder