NEW YORK — New York law enforcement arrested two men and seized weapons on Saturday over what police said was a “developing threat to the Jewish community.”
Authorities seized a large hunting knife, an illegal Glock 17 handgun and a 30-round magazine, police said.
A Nazi armband was reportedly found with the weapons.
It was not immediately clear whether the men were carrying arms at the time of the arrest.
After the arrest, police said they were “deploying resources to sensitive locations” in the city.
The New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Unit and the FBI identified the threat on Friday, police said.
Early Saturday, officers arrested the two men at Penn Station, a transportation hub in Manhattan, police told The Times of Israel.
Christopher Brown, 21, has been charged with terrorism threats, aggravated harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.
Matthew Mahrer, 22, has been charged with criminal possession of a weapon.
Brown is from Long Island and Mahrer is from New York, police said.
Authorities said Brown had a history of mental illness and had recently made threats against area synagogues.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority officers arrested the couple as they entered Penn Station. The suspects were then turned over to the NYPD and the FBI.
“We are extremely grateful to the NYPD investigators and our law enforcement partners who uncovered and stopped a threat to our Jewish community,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in a statement.
The Community Security Service, a Jewish security organization, said it has been in contact with federal and local law enforcement in the past 24 hours regarding “a specific threat to the Jewish community in the New York”.
The group said Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, Community Security Initiative and Secure Community Network were also involved in the response.
Evan Bernstein, the head of the CSS, said community safety trust in the UK first learned of the threat on Twitter and informed its partners in the US.
The suspect was identified through his social media posts and investigators were able to determine that he was on his way to Manhattan.
Investigators sent out a security alert, took pictures of the suspect on social media, distributed the images to security groups in the field, and the suspect was apprehended around midnight, Bernstein told The Times of Israel.
He said he was not aware of a threat against a specific location, but of a general threat against Jews.
The arrests come amid a wave of threats and attacks against Jews in New York and across the United States.
“Threat levels just keep going up and up,” Bernstein said.
“You see it from the far right, you see it from the left, and the Jews are the ones who are caught in the middle,” he said.
The New York Police Department confirmed 195 anti-Semitic hate crimes in the city from the start of the year to September 30, which is one attack every 33 hours. Many other incidents probably go unreported. The attacks range from assaults to racist graffiti, property damage and verbal harassment.
Jews are consistently the most targeted group for hate crimes in the city on an annual basis, in per capita and absolute terms.
Last month, the NYPD reported 20 anti-Jewish hate crimes, four times more than against any other group.
There have been several attacks on synagogues in the United States in recent years, including the 2018 shooting of the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which killed 11 people – the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States.
In 2019, an attacker wielding a machete killed an old man to a rabbi at a party in Monsey, upstate New York.
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors in New Jersey arrested a teenager with extremist Islamist views for making threats that led to a general FBI warning for synagogues in the state. The threat prompted police in neighboring New York to also increase guards and patrols at synagogues.
“These are very different ideologies from very different places,” Bernstein said. “Jews find themselves in the crosshairs of these different different groups, but the common denominator is that they hate Jews.”
In April, an anti-Semitic attacker went wild in New Jersey, stabbing and crushing several Jews, putting the community in suspense. The suspect has since been charged with federal hate crimes.
In 2019, New Jersey experienced one of the worst anti-Semitic attacks in years when two assailants opened fire in a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, killing the Jewish owner, a Jewish customer and a store employee.
a report released by the ADL earlier this year revealed the highest levels of reported anti-Semitic events in the United States in 2021 since the organization began tracking the issue in the 1970s.
by Kanye West antisemitic tirades and NBA player Kyrie Irving’s promotion of an anti-Semitic film further fanned the flames and sparked a national conversation about anti-Semitism in the United States.
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday that the American Jewish community “was hit from all sides” and “desperate” in need of additional support from the agency amid an apparent increase in anti-Semitic attacks.
He said about 63 percent of religious hate crimes were motivated by anti-Semitism, “and that targets a group that makes up about 2.4 percent of the US population.”