BY SHAWN LOGAN – Calgary Sun
Calgary’s Jewish community is unsettled after a sickening graffiti spree that saw swastikas scrawled on a synagogue and several schools.
Police are probing the vandalism as possible hate crimes, trying to determine if the incidents in south Calgary are related.
A Jewish synagogue in the 500 block of Woodpark Blvd. S.W. was targetted just after midnight on April 21 while the word “swastika” was painted on a nearby school.
Four other southeast schools — Prince of Wales, St. Bonaventure, R.T. Alderman and St. Philip Fine Arts school — were hit between April 24-25, all plastered with vulgar drawings and language as well as more swastikas.
Jeffery Smith, a board member of the Calgary Jewish Federation, said the anti-Semitic attack is unnerving, particularly coming just a week before Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“It does conjure up insecurities — it’s a particularly heinous act coming so close to Yom HaShoah,” he said.
“It’s something that all you can do is shake your head, it’s astonishing it still happens in this day and age.”
It’s the second time the Chabad Lubavitch centre was targeted, one of several Jewish sites hit with hate-filled graffiti in 2009, for which an underage offender was given 18 months of probation after showing remorse for his crimes.
Surveillance cameras at the synagogue have led police to three suspects, each about 5-foot-10 and weighing between 140 to 150 lbs.
Sgt. Bill Dodd, with the police Diversity Resources Team, said the swastika is a well-known symbol of hate, and targeting both a synagogue and places where children can be influenced makes it a hate crime.
“The swastika is generally understood for people — they know what it means,” he said.
“The fact that it was on schools and certainly on a synagogue would lead us to consider these hate crimes.”
While police can’t say if all the incidents are related, the nature of the graffiti, which has since been removed from all the buildings, appears similar.
The police Hate Crimes Co-ordinator along with the Joint Graffiti Investigative Team, a multi-agency task force, are investigating.
Anyone with information about the perpetrators is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 and those who see graffiti should report it to 311.