Officials in Yonkers, New York, are actively searching for spray-painting culprits who have been desecrating religious statues throughout the city. So far, in twelve reported incidents, nativity and religions scenes have been vandalized or stolen.
If and when those responsible are caught, they may face felony charges for their actions, which are being deemed "biased crimes." This, of course, holds the potential to carry a sentence of several years behind bars.
According to Yonkers Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett, religious crimes are rare in the city, which borders the Bronx. Police currently have little to go on in terms of leads, but they are offering a $1,000 reward for more information.
“We believe an attack on one religion is an attack on all religions,” Hartnett said at a Monday press conference.
Below, see surveillance footage that captured one of the incidents unfolding:
The bizarre crime spree started on Saturday evening and ended, police believe, on Sunday, with six homes and two churches falling victim. One of the statues outside of Sacred Heard Church had black paint dumped all over it. Several Mary statues, according to the Associated Press, had their faces painted black.
According to LoHud.com, the word "Stop" was also spray-painted on the back of one of the statues. In another bizarre occurrence, a resident came home to find a man stealing a Virgin Mary statue from her front yard. The homeowner claims that he said, "Bye," waved at her and ran away. The statue was later recovered in a trash bin.
Here's an ABC News report with more:
CBS News has reaction from Yonkers citizens:
“I think it’s childish and immature not really in the holiday spirit,” one person said.
Victoria Beldran is one of eight people who called police due to the vandalism in front of her home this weekend on Park Avenue.
“It’s not about the statue, it’s about what it means for you. It hurts,” Beldran said.
Currently, police are unsure as to how many people are involved, but the community is understandably unsettled by the developments.