JCRC — Floyd County police investigating swastika graffiti at Azalea Hills

Floyd County police investigating swastika graffiti at Azalea Hills,” Elizabeth Depompei, News and Tribune, August 13 2018.

Police are investigating graffiti depicting swastikas and other images on a sign at a Floyds Knobs retirement community.

Cassie McCoun, an administrator at Azalea Hills retirement community on Lafayette Parkway, said the graffiti was first reported around 5 a.m. Monday, though she wasn’t sure who called it in. McCoun and other staff became aware of it soon after.

By Monday afternoon, the sign was covered with white tarp, with plans to finish repainting it on Tuesday.

McCoun said she does not think the vandalism was targeting a specific group, but rather that it was likely “a bunch of kids.” Floyd County Sheriff Frank Loop echoed that thought.

“I’m sure it was just some kids vandalizing,” he said.

One side of the sign was covered in two red swastikas and the words “wer (sic) here.” Loop said the other side of the sign had an image of male genitalia painted over it.

“So that kind of reinforces what they and I are thinking, it’s probably just some neighborhood kids,” he said, adding that the same image was painted on nearby portable bathroom units in a storage lot about a year or so ago.

McCoun said she was unaware of any other vandalism in the area and described the community as safe and vigilant. The community has about 65 residents and is surrounded by a neighborhood of roughly 250 homes.

The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council learned of the incident and contacted local officials, along with its Louisville chapter and the Anti-Defamation League in Chicago.

JCRC Assistant Director David Sklar said the goal is to make local officials and other organizations aware of such incidents so that they know someone is taking action, and to gather additional information.

While the intent behind the crime remains unknown, Sklar said it’s troublesome either way.

“… if it is kids, if it looks like it was not directed at any particular group or individuals, then I think we need to be aware of that to make sure that we as a community take a deep breath and address the level of, for lack of a better word, the level of crime that it is,” he said.

“I mean we don’t want every single vandalism treated like a bias crime because we want bias crime laws to be utilized in the most extreme cases.”

Indiana is one of five states that does not have a hate crime law, but that could soon change. After a synagogue in Carmel was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, Gov. Eric Holcomb called for Indiana to finally adopt hate crime legislation.

Sklar said the Carmel incident and the conversation that took place after likely has increased awareness around the state.

“So I think there’s always a question about whether we are experiencing more (biased crimes) or seeing more, and my educated guess over the last couple of weeks is we’re seeing more of these things reported than we were before.”

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JCRC — DespiteEven as Indiana lawmakers from both parties continue to echo Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for hate crime legislation, the deep divisions that foiled previous attempts to pass a bias-motivated crime bill appear to still be entrenched.  Monday, Holcomb announced his intention to get a hate crime bill through the Statehouse during the 2019 General Assembly session. He said he would be meeting with legislators, corporate leaders and citizens to find consensus so Indiana can join the 45 other states that have statutes regarding crimes motived by hate or bias.  “No law can stop evil,” Holcomb said, “but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced.”  Holcomb made his public statement of support for hate crime legislation following an act of vandalism at a Carmel synagogue over the weekend. An outbuilding at the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla was spray-painted with Nazi symbols.  Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have since issued statements reiterating the governor’s view. But Democrats noted that while they have proposed and supported hate crime measures, their colleagues across the aisle have resisted and failed to take action in getting a bill passed.  “(The Democrats) have persistently pursued bias-motivated crime legislation in the Indiana Senate, and each year our legislation is ignored by the majority party with promises of future consideration,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.  Incoming Senate president Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said he is pleased to collaborate with Holcomb and the House of Representatives to continue the work of crafting “legislation that mirrors our Hoosier hospitality.”  Conversely, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, voiced support for the victims but was noncommittal about passing a law.  “This summer, the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code will take another look at the issue of bias-motivated crimes and identify opportunities for legislative consensus,” Bosma said. “Indiana Judges already have the ability to enhance sentences based on a criminal’s motivation when presented with evidence of bias, but perhaps more needs to be done to clarify and highlight this existing provision.”  Also Monday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill released a 761-word op-ed also calling for the Legislature to pass a law that “criminalizes hateful conduct.”  However, his position mirrors the opposition to hate crime bills that these measures carve out special protections for select groups. The list of protected classes often included in the proposed legislation is seen as excluding individuals who are part of a majority.  “My proposal differs from many other so-called hate-crimes proposals in that it avoids entirely the exercise of separating ‘protected groups’ from ‘non-protected,’” Hill wrote. “Why should some groups receive greater protection from hateful conduct than others?”  For community organizations pushing for a bias-motivated crime bill, the removal of the specific protected groups would be unacceptable. David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, called it a non-starter.  Hate crime bills that have been introduced in the Indiana Legislature in the past have included a list of characteristics identifying the protected classes. The bills specify that individuals or groups could have their sentences enhanced if they commit a criminal act that targets others because of their religion, race, gender and ethnicity. Holcomb’s support, hate crimes bill lacks unity

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