Oregon JCC evacuated after bomb threat

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Mittleman Jewish Community Center (MJCC) evacuated its campus on Monday in SW Portland after receiving an e-mail threat.

Law enforcement determined the threat was a hoax.

Steve Albert, the Executive Director of MJCC, said the message was sent to the center’s general email account, and it indicated the possibility of explosives on campus.

Albert said the group contacted the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), the Portland Police Bureau’s Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“After ensuring that the parking lot and outdoor areas surrounding the MJCC were safe, on the recommendation of law enforcement, the MJCC closed early (including the Sportsplex) and all members, guests and staff were sent home,” Albert said in a prepared statement that was also sent out to members.

According to Albert, a “comprehensive” sweep of the entire building was conducted and “determined that there was no threat.  No one was ever in any danger, and we have no reason to believe there is any ongoing need for concern.”

In a prepared statement, FBI spokesperson Beth Anne Steele said: “The FBI and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating possible civil rights violations in connection with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country. The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure this matter is investigated in a fair, thorough and impartial manner. As this is matter is ongoing, we are not able to comment further at this time.”

The statement from Albert continued, “…we are working with the FBI to bring those responsible for these threats to justice.”

Bob Horenstein with the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland said, “The obvious purpose is spreading fear, like terrorism. It’s incredible that we’re still having to deal with this kind of hatred and these kinds of senseless acts for sure.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is across the street from the community center.

Criminologist Randy Blazak said the greater goal of the threats is to terrorize and keep people fearful. He also said the activity is not coming from one central organization or leader.

“We have to be careful that we don’t know who any of these people are for the most part. They may not be connected to the alt-right or the Neo Nazi movement. They may be copycats,” Blazak said.

Security enhancements at the MJCC are being made, but according to Albert’s statement, those enhancements “were planned before yesterday evening’s incident.”In a statement, Jewish Federation of Portland president Marc Blattner said, in part:

“…This is a continuation of the 6-week long barrage of threats made at Jewish institutions around the country. The MJCC leadership was fully prepared and took all necessary precautions, and law enforcement did its work. Fortunately, everything was found to be safe. … (Wednesday) morning is a meeting of Jewish communal executives to further discuss how we respond to these incidents. We are doing what we can.”

“Our commuity takes security very seriously,” said the federation’s Bob Horenstein. “It’s not just because of this rash of threats but we’ve always taken this issue very seriously. We have an excellent relationship with local law enforcement, we’re in communication with them often and we make sure our staffs are prepared for this kind of unfortunate incident.”

Last month, the FBI called its ongoing probes into threats made at JCCs a top investigatory priority.

Sgt. Pete Simpson said in a prepared statement: Anyone with information about this incident should email CrimeTips@portlandoregon.gov, reference case #17-67367.

Simpson added officers have “regularly been providing extra patrol to the community center and other facilities after reports of threats occurring across the United States.”

“At this point, it is not known if the threat to the Mittleman Jewish Community Center is in any way connected with other incidents across the country. The Portland Police Bureau is continuing to investigate and has been in communication with federal law enforcement regarding the incident. – Sgt. Pete Simpson, Portland Police Bureau.

ProPublica reports that 7 other similar threats were made Tuesday morning.

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