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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia City Council committee has approved a bill that would specify that vandalism to grave markers is subject to hate crime laws.

The bill is a response to the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in February.

Robb Reichard of the Wissinoming Civic Association says his members have been working to improve their little corner of Philadelphia, and the vandalism at Mount Carmel Cemetery was a setback.

“When my neighbors and I saw our neighborhood on the national news, that hurts our neighborhood,” Reichard said.

Reichard testified in favor of the bill, which sponsor Kenyatta Johnson says also raises penalties for such acts.

“Penalties would be per headstone, as opposed to one incident as a whole, and I think that sends a real clear message that if you are caught, you will receive a hefty fine, as you should,” said Johnson.

Human relations commission director Rue Landau says these are technical changes but do have an impact.

“They actually act as a deterrent to the crimes,” she said.

A $74,000 reward in the Mt. Carmel case has not led to any arrests.

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