In response to a series of racial incidents, the Simi Valley Police Department has assigned a detective to investigate "hate" crimes.
"Obviously, the rate of this type of crime has increased from less than 1% per year to several in a six-month period, and that's a matter of concern," Lt. Robert Klamser said.
Klamser said police have documented six such incidents in the last six months, ranging in severity from the writing of racist graffiti to the ransacking and defacing of a black teacher's home.
On Friday night, a group of youths described as skinheads robbed a liquor store and threw a baseball bat at the owner's nephew. The nephew, a 28-year-old Korean immigrant, was injured slightly as he chased the youths into a parking lot.
Also on Friday night, racist and Nazi slogans including the words "skinz" and "white power" were spray-painted onto cinder-block walls enclosing residential developments, Klamser said.
Four Sylmar youths dressed as skinheads were detained by a neighbor and questioned and released by police officers near Friday night's graffiti-painting, Detective Anthony Anzilotti said.
The president of the Ventura County chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People criticized the Simi Valley police, asking why no arrests have been made in the vandalism of the black teacher's home, discovered Aug. 14 when he and his family returned from a trip. The word "skinheads" was among the graffiti spray-painted inside the house.
"If a white family was involved, then somebody black would be in jail by now," said the NAACP official, John Hatcher.
Police response was also questioned by the president of a Simi Valley synagogue that was vandalized with racist graffiti in May.
Michael Jawitz, president of Temple Ner Tamid, said the police had increased nightly patrols after a May 29 vandalism attack but were slow to respond to a series of harassing incidents apparently committed by neighborhood children. On Friday morning, according to Jawitz, an 11-year-old boy threw an egg at a woman entering the synagogue and called her a religious epithet.
According to Jawitz, police officers responding to the incident said they could do little because of the boy's age but offered to speak to his parents.
Klamser said state law makes it difficult to prosecute children under the age of 14.
Because most of the six incidents have involved vandalism, Klamser said, the department assigned a property-crimes detective to also investigate all hate crimes.
"It will help the department keep a handle on the amount and type of things going on," said Chief Lindsey (Paul) Miller. "Obviously, if it increases we'll put more people on it."
The series of events documented so far by police began with the May vandalism of Temple Ner Tamid. The incident that generated the most publicity and concern was the August vandalism of the home of Northridge Junior High School teacher Louis Boss. An estimated $20,000 in damage was caused when the house was ransacked and defaced with racial epithets.
In other incidents, swastikas and white-supremacist slogans were painted two times last month on the tennis courts of Simi Valley High School.