Police Department officials announced increased surveillance and patrols for forthcoming religious holidays in a community heavily populated by Jewish families after last week's incidents of vandalism, which police are treating as hate crimes.
At a meeting at the Jewish Community Center on Park Heights Avenue on Thursday night, Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper of the Northwestern District told residents that the vandalism is considered "a very serious matter" and that a new patrol van will survey the targeted neighborhoods from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. to "apprehend the individuals that may have committed these acts."
She said police continue to investigate but have not made arrests in several incidents in which swastikas and other messages were spray-painted onto cars on Strathmore Avenue, Clarinth Road and Labyrinth Road between late Friday night and early Saturday morning.
Tapp-Harper told residents that video surveillance in the neighborhood shows two juveniles who detectives believe are responsible for all of the incidents. Investigators do not believe the messages will escalate to violent behavior.
"We have a couple leads we are working on," Tapp-Harper said. "I do believe we will be able to resolve this matter."
She said the FBI is now involved in the incidents, which included a swastika spray-painted on a van in the 2800 block of W. Strathmore Ave., along with the phrase "IH8U," while an expletive was found on the side of another van in the same block. A third van was keyed a block away.
Swastikas and "Hitler" were painted on two vehicles in the 3900 block of Labyrinth Road and the 3700 block of Clarinth Road.
At the meeting, the department's liaison officer, Ken Dickstein, told residents that patrols would increase for the religious holidays next month, including Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Dickstein said that there are over 75 synagogues "we pay special attention to" on those holidays.
"I'm from this community. My father was a rabbi in this community," he said. "We are using everything to our advantage."
Dickstein said residents must do their part and report any suspicious activity — 911 for emergencies, but 311 or Sgt. Darryl Smith, at 410-241-9850, for other incidents.
After the meeting, resident Gary Poretsky said he was pleased with the police response.
"We're grateful for that," said Poretsky, who is also the community liaison for Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector. "They showed a lot of familiarity with the community. We hope to continue the positive relationship."