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Tarzana wakes to find anti-Semitic graffiti on walls

January 18, 2008|Jack Leonard and Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writers

Anti-Semitic scrawlings on residential walls were discovered over a two-mile area of Tarzana on Thursday morning, raising anxiety in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood and triggering a hate-crime investigation by police.

Residents of the upscale neighborhood just south of Ventura Boulevard awoke to find swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti spray-painted in red on four perimeter walls, police said.

Police do not believe that any residents in particular were targeted, but people in the neighborhood said the incident left them shaken.

"It's scary," said Judy Silver, who is Jewish and lives near one of the vandalized properties. "It's not the kind of neighborhood that sees that. We do watch out for each other."

Councilman Dennis Zine, who represents the area, said his office had received calls from constituents alarmed by the vandalism.

"This is unusual. They obviously wanted to send a message of fear to the residents of this community," he said.

Zine said he plans to ask the Los Angeles City Council today to approve a reward of $50,000 to $75,000 for information leading to an arrest.

"Whoever did this will face some very serious consequences," he said. "People of the Jewish faith should not live in fear and have this."

The vandalism follows several high-profile anti-Semitic crimes last year. In May, Councilman Jack Weiss' Sherman Oaks office was defaced with swastikas and anti-Semitic writing. In August, several orthodox Jews were attacked in pellet gun shootings around Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, anti-Semitic crimes have dropped steadily since peaking at 123 in 2000, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. In 2006, the last year figures were available, the figure was 65.

Thursday's vandalism was reported to police shortly after 8 a.m. and was painted over by afternoon.

Jeff Koeppel, who lives behind one of the affected homes on Wells Drive, said the resident is not Jewish.

"I don't think they were the intended targets," he said. "It certainly is unsettling. . . . I think that someone just wanted to put out a hate message."

Officials with the Anti-Defamation League's Pacific Southwest region said they were alarmed by the vandalism and commended Los Angeles police detectives for taking the incident seriously.

"You would think that in a community like this, where there is such a thriving and assimilated Jewish community, you wouldn't see this thing often," said Amanda Susskind, the league's regional director. "It's a reminder that we always need to be vigilant and not become complacent about anti-Semitism."

Police asked anyone with information to contact Det. Foster Rains or Det. Andrew Purdy at (818) 374-7730.




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