GENEVA, N.Y. (WROC) — Geneva police are investigating after they say the West Street Elementary School was defaced with swastikas, racial slurs, indecent images, and the phrase “Bring the Nazi’s back” over the weekend.
According to police, the vandalism was reported Sunday at the school and the school’s playground. Investigators say the swastikas and slurs were etched into school property. A window and flood light at the school were also damaged.
Police said the playground graffiti was cleaned up before school Monday and is no longer visible.
Geneva police chief Michael Passalacqua said officers were called to the school Sunday for a criminal mischief report. They canvased the neighborhood and are reviewing surveillance video provided by the school district.
“The police department’s role is to find those that are responsible. Beyond that for me is the ‘why.’ I think it’s more important to get to the root of why anyone, whether child, adult, middle aged, older, what the reason is behind this and really what the motive is because honestly in a criminal matter, if you’re going to charge something as a hate crime, motive and underlying cause certainly does matter as to the background or why they’re doing something like this,” said Passalacqua.
The chief also dealt with similar instances in 2019 when graffiti of swastikas on a church, shed, and the Armory building surfaced and ‘KKK’ was spray painted on a mini mart.
He said in the first situation, they were able to present the case to the county attorney as a hate crime, however the age of the suspect plays a role in whether they can be charged criminally.
Passalacqua said the surveillance footage has been ‘extremely helpful’ and police have identified a couple of people involved. He said they are juveniles, and there are several other people they are still identifying.
The Geneva City School District superintendent Patricia Garcia said this isn’t acceptable in her district and commends the police on their quick response.
“The school was able to remove the graffiti immediately with their permission and this is due to the prompt response to the situation so students were not exposed to this,” Garcia said.
The chief said as of Tuesday, there was no indication this incident is related to the others from a couple of years ago.
Police sent out a press release Monday, saying they would follow up on information learned from the video. Anyone with information is asked to call 315-828-6780 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. All tips are anonymous.