NOMA — Police are trying to track down who spray-painted roughly a dozen red swastikas on the walls of homes, businesses and parking structures in and around an affluent section of Santa Monica over the weekend.
SMPD Sgt. Richard Lewis said the majority of the vandalism, which has been classified as a hate crime, took place in the North of Montana Avenue neighborhood, home to some of Santa Monica’s wealthiest residents.
Lewis said some of those targeted are not Jewish, and no places of worship were hit, leading police to believe these were random acts of vandalism.
While the swastika has been a powerful symbol for thousands of years, it is most commonly associated with Nazi Germany and the extermination of millions of Jews.
Lewis said the SMPD started receiving reports about the swastikas Saturday evening. The last came in Monday morning. Graffiti removal teams were dispatched to paint over the symbols.
“We have some leads that we are following up on that I can’t discuss yet,” Lewis said.
He urged anyone with information to contact the SMPD at (310) 458-8491.
Resident Scott Jacobson was one of the victims. He said he awoke Sunday to the sound of his neighbor knocking at his door. When he answered it, she told him that his wall facing Seventh Street near Georgina Avenue had a large, red swastika on it.
Jacobson was shocked and then outraged, he said.
“I’m very upset about it,” said Jacobson, who moved into the area with his wife two years ago and is now concerned about leaving her home alone when he goes on business trips. “Something has to be done about this.”
When it comes to hate crimes, Santa Monica has very few. According to figures released by the SMPD earlier this year, there were five hate crimes reported in 2010: one simple assault relating to race against an African American; four reports of vandalism, including written slurs against Persians, African Americans and two against the Jewish religion.
That was a slight increase from a year prior. In 2009, there were three reported hate crimes in Santa Monica, including one aggravated assault related to sexual orientation, one simple assault relating to race (an Hispanic victim) and one report of vandalism targeting African Americans.
Since each report is treated as a separate incident, Lewis said the weekend’s vandalism will dramatically increase Santa Monica’s hate crime statistics.
California is home to the highest number of reported anti-Semitic acts, with 297 in 2010, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit, which was released earlier this month. The audit found there were a total of 1,239 incidents of assaults, vandalism and harassment reported last year.