Vandals strike again

Multiple acts of anti-Semitic vandalism marred the tranquil streets of Palo Alto, and for now police have no solid leads on the case.

Over a four-day period starting July 16, Palo Alto police received reports of swastikas painted on or carved into park benches, public signs and mailboxes across the city. The city has since cleaned up the graffiti.

“Because there was no victim and it was not on anyone’s personal property, these are not considered hate crimes,” said detective Adrienne Moore of the Palo Alto Police Department. “If we catch the person doing this, he will be charged with vandalism.”

Swastikas were found painted on a wooden sign in Eleanor Pardee Park and on a mailbox close to the corner of Channing and Melville streets. The worst of the incidents occurred at Greenmeadow Community Center, located in a neighborhood with a relatively high Jewish population and a stone’s throw from the future home of Congregation Etz Chayim. There, dozens of swastikas were found carved into wooden picnic tables and benches.

Allan Steyer, regional board chair of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a written statement: “As a universal symbol of hate, the swastika is used by some to threaten and intimidate. We encourage law enforcement to investigate and prosecute these crimes to the full extent of the law.”

Such hateful graffiti is not new to the area. Moore says that reports of similar attacks go back years, especially in the Greenmeadow area. “I know as far back as 1998 we were taking cases like this,” says the detective.

Moore adds: “Hate incidents can occur in any town, but in this town the community is astute and sensitive to these issues, and they do call us. The Bay Area is diverse, and this kind of thing creates dissension among the communities. It’s something we’re very sensitive to.”

Lois Giovacchini, development director for the ADL Central Pacific region, lives in the Palo Alto area and saw the graffiti up close. “The Greenmeadow neighborhood association is now planning to install security cameras,” she says, “in part because of this incident.”

“Right now we have no leads and no idea who is doing this,” says Moore. “We’ll just put our ears to ground and keep our eyes open.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.