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Sunday, April 19, 2015

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Swastikas spray-painted on home, community centre

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Swastika was painted on a home in the Bathurst-Sheppard area. [Beth Karstadt photo]

TORONTO — Two buildings in the Bathurst and Sheppard area were spray-painted with swastikas in separate incidents last week.

First, the Borochov Cultural Centre on Codsell Avenue was targeted with a swastika during Shavuot, then a private home nearby on Combe Avenue was violated in the same way.

Homeowner Beth Karstadt said she drove right by the graffiti on the side of her house without noticing it when she took her children to school June 6.

After she returned, a police officer knocked on her door and pointed out the swastika to Karstadt and her husband Jay Silverstein. The officer said a passing motorist had notified police about the vandalism. The officer also informed them of the Borochov Centre incident.

“My first feelings were absolute shock,” Karstadt said. “Then, for a brief second, there was fear, because you don’t know who’s done it and if they know you. Then my emotions turned to anger. I am so angry that in this day and age, we still have to deal with this.”

The attending officer from 32 Division advised the family to cover up the swastika until it could be removed, in order to protect their own and neighbouring properties from copycats.

The Toronto Police Service publishes an annual hate crimes statistical report. The three most targeted groups since 2006 have been the Jewish, black, and gay and lesbian communities. In 2013, the Jewish community had the most incidents.

“Hate-bias crimes have a disproportionally greater impact upon their victims than other types of crimes, as they don’t only victimize the individual, but the entire community,” said Det. Const. Kiran Bisla of the Toronto Police hate crimes unit.

Police said finding the perpetrators won’t be easy.

“It represents a challenge while investigating, because neither the victim nor any witnesses are present at the time the offence takes place,” Bisla said.

“Mischief to property offences represent a significant portion of the occurrences reported and unfortunately, the perpetrators are not often caught,” she added.

While the family is frightened, Karstadt said, “we are certainly not going to let the acts of a coward frighten us away.”

To report a hate crime or incident of religious vandalism, contact the hate crimes unit at 416-808-2222, or B’nai Brith Canada at 1-800-892-BNAI or http://bnaibrith.ca/report-a-hate-crime/.

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