At least 16 cars and SUVs were vandalized with graffiti, some with swastikas, early last Friday morning in Bellerose. The vehicles were parked around the intersection of Little Neck Parkway and 87th Avenue.
The NYPD is investigating the vandalism as a possible hate crime, and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) also interviewed residents about it the day it occurred.
“This is a despicable act of vandalism, and those responsible for this heinous crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, including being possibly charged with a hate crime,” Avella said in a prepared statement. “After speaking with police personnel, I am glad that they are vigorously investigating this crime and hopefully will catch the perpetrators as soon as possible.”
“It’s an ongoing investigation by the Hate Crimes Task Force,” Lt. John Grimple confirmed Sunday night. “No arrests have been made.”
Despite the incident being investigated by the Hate Crimes Task Force, however, some residents do not believe it really was a hate crime.
“I don’t think they meant it as a hate crime,” said one resident who has lived on the block for 43 years and declined to be identified by name. “I think it’s just a couple of young people trying to have a good time.”
“They drew them backwards,” another resident, Danielle Kuretz, said of the swastikas, some of which were facing the “wrong” way. “I think it’s kids.”
“I don’t think it was a hate crime,” neighbor Edwin Tirado agreed. “I think it was just somebody being stupid.”
Others, however, see the dreaded Nazi symbols’ appearance differently.
“Unfortunately, we are still seeing the Jewish community being targeted in significant numbers, including in Queens, where we saw 30 anti-Semitic acts last year,” Evan Bernstein, the New York regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said in an email. “While it is true that the majority of Jewish individuals in our city feel safe, it is however highly disturbing that some residents of Bellerose found such horrific hate messages in their own neighborhood.
“We continue to monitor anti-Semitic incidents throughout New York and encourage law enforcement and the public to be steadfast in reporting such events.”
Area officials held a protest against the graffiti Wednesday morning.
The police had a car stationed at the intersection early this week, and have had one there since the incident, residents said. They had mixed feelings about its presence, some saying it made them feel safer and others saying it isn’t necessary.
“I definitely like it,” one said.
“I wonder why they have an officer here, ’cause they aren’t going to come back now,” another said. “But I don’t mind it.”
Another did mind, saying, “They should stop wasting taxpayers’ money with cops stationed here. They’re not going to catch them like that.”
“I wouldn’t feel unsafe if they weren’t there,” said Tirado.
But all agreed the graffiti was hurtful to the victims and that they want to see those responsible caught.
“It’s insulting; people work hard for their stuff,” Kuretz said.