City officials said they were shocked to hear of a report of antisemitic and racist graffiti painted on the street somewhere in the 1300 block of Cambridge Road last week.
San Marino Police Department Chief John Incontro said his officers received a call for service on the morning of July 9 for vandalism that was “completely uncharacteristic” of the city.
Two residents reported that morning they had observed a swastika spray-painted on the street followed by two L’s, a dollar sign and the N-word. The offensive image and language were painted over by two individuals the following day.
“We don’t really have that kind of incident at all,” Incontro said during a San Marino City Council meeting on July 13. “We responded right away.”
Incontro said the investigation is ongoing and that the residents who reported the vandalism near their homes seemed to have been targeted. He shared images of the graffiti with other departments to see if they had seen something similar but had no luck in finding a lead.
However, he did say that during the early morning hours of July 9, the department captured footage of a van parked in the same general area. Two subjects exited the van, went to two homes and kicked the front doors. The individuals then got into the van and drove away, but the cameras were unable to read the license plates due to darkness.
Incontro explained that the “kicking on doors” of homes is a TikTok challenge that is trending, and while he isn’t sure if the two incidents are connected, the SMPD is still pursuing it.
Councilmembers expressed concern over the racist content of the graffiti, especially following last year’s incident in which fliers containing antisemitic messages and coronavirus pandemic conspiracies were distributed to San Marino homes. The fliers were inside plastic bags with rocks and placed on driveways in the northern part of town at the beginning of Yom Kippur, a holy day for Jewish people.
Those fliers, however, were distributed in a different part of San Marino than the graffiti last week, Incontro noted, adding that such incidents are the “ugly parts” of freedom of speech.
Incontro assured the Council that his department is taking the matter “very seriously” and plans to reach out to a few people he knows in the Anti-Defamation League.
“We took it as a hate incident,” he said.