Police Treating Synagogue Vandalism as a Hate Crime
Police continue to look for leads into the defacing of Battle Creek’s Jewish synagogue, Temple Beth El. A member of the congregation reported the latest incident on Sunday afternoon.
Police said someone used black spray paint to spell the word "lier" below an unknown symbol on the concrete menorah, or candelabrum, on the front of the building at 306 Capital Avenue Northeast sometime over the weekend. Lt. Jim Martens says police are pursuing a couple of leads, but no arrests are imminent.
“It’s not a symbol we’ve seen. We’ve sent it all over the country and even outside the country. It might mean something, but not on an established level with any known groups.” Lt. Martens says they also asked their gang suppression unit to look at the symbol, and it does not appear to be related to local gang activity.
Lt. Martens says there’s no reason to think the vandalism is aimed at any particular person. He said it’s possible that it could be someone with mental issues. Right now, police are treating it as a hate crime.
Police say that if you see any suspicious activity in that neighborhood, please call them. Martens says the same goes for other religious institutions in the area. “We don’t know the specific intent”, said Lt. Martens.
It’s the second time in about six weeks that the building has been damaged. On Nov. 23 police were told that someone used a hammer and chisel to damage the same menorah on the building. No one has been arrested that incident.
After the two instances of vandalism at the synagogue, city officials are making clear that the City of Battle Creek has zero tolerance for hate crimes.
Federal hate crime laws prohibit crimes committed because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The laws also prohibit damage or defacement to religious property, because it is a religious property, or because of the characteristics of the people associated with it.
“Battle Creek is not unique and, to that end, this is our opportunity to take a full stand against hate,” said Police Chief Jim Blocker. “It is a crime that will be fully investigated and enforced.”
Related to the vandalism at the synagogue, Blocker said the second incident appeared to be hateful. However, in sharing the painted message with local, state and federal experts, police say it was not recognized as hateful.
The city has contacted the Anti-Defamation League for support, as well as local and regional leaders. Blocker said outreach and support from the community has been supportive, encouraging, and helpful, assisting police with leads in the synagogue case.
Police continue to pursue leads in the synagogue case, and encourage anyone with information to call the non-emergency line at 269-781-0911 or Silent Observer at 269-964-3888.