The Harford County Sheriff’s Office and Bel Air Police Department have both charged a juvenile in relation to a rash of political vandalism incidents at schools and homes in and around Bel Air.
A school resource deputy from the sheriff’s office identified a 12-year-old male as the suspect, who later turned himself into to law enforcement. He was charged in four incidents investigated by the sheriff’s office to the Department of Juvenile Services.
Bel Air police stated that the suspect was a white male juvenile and was charged with with four counts of malicious destruction of property for vandalizing homes in the Majors Choice community, off Moores Mill Road.
Cristie Hopkins, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said the incidents investigated by deputies and Bel Air police were related and confirmed the suspect was the same in each investigation.
Bel Air police offers responded to homes along Benjamin Road, Benjamin Court and North Shamrock Road at approximately 6:30 a.m. Monday and found that four of the homes had been spray painted with “Black Lives Matter” and anti-Trump graffiti overnight.
Also on Monday, sheriff’s deputies were called to nearby Southampton Middle School, where vulgar images and profanity, along with political messages, were spray painted on the school. Deputies were called to the school again Tuesday for more graffiti with similar messages spray painted on the building.
Deputies also responded Monday to a home in the 1100 block of Malkus Way where they found a damaged Trump 2020 flag and the home vandalized with spray-painted profanity.
On Tuesday, another vandalism complaint was filed in the 800 block of East Broadway, where a homeowner reported Trump signs has been stolen Monday and that overnight Tuesday, someone spray-painted profanity on his home and spray-painted over a Trump sticker on his car, the sheriff’s office said.
“It is an important reminder that while we enjoy free speech, that freedom does not extend to graffiti and vandalism of private property,” the sheriff’s office stated on its social media accounts. “The minute you do that, it becomes a crime.”
Bel Air Police are also continuing to investigate political defacement seen around town with stickers advertising Patriot Front, a white-nationalist group, have been appearing in public places.
Patriot Front is a white supremacist group believing lineage to be the most important aspect of being an American. Illustrating that belief is their notion that people born outside of the U.S. cannot be considered American, according to the manifesto posted to the group’s web-page. The organization is also notably anti-Semitic.
Anyone caught committing the acts will face, at minimum, a vandalism charge, which carries a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment, up to a $2,500 fine or both, the department said.
Patti Parker, a spokesperson for the Town of Bel Air, said “dozens” of Patriot Front stickers have been found on public property, and town staff has been removing them since late spring.
With a contentious presidential election less than a month away, Parker said the town has seen an abnormal increase in political defacement and vandalism.