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Three Croton Harmon High School students have been charged with painting racist and hateful graffiti that was discovered last month on the northbound overpass on the Taconic State Parkway on Croton Dam Road in Yorktown.
The case was designated as bias incident since some of the graffiti, found May 21, was racially derogatory and anti-Semitic.
During a press conference outside Yorktown Police headquarters Wednesday, it was revealed the graffiti included the “N” word, a swastika and the statement “Gas all Jews.”
“Let me be clear, hate has no home in Yorktown,” Supervisor Matt Slater asserted. “My hope is that this sends a very clear message to anyone who wants to spread vile, racist hate in our community. Our Police Department and our community will stand up against you every single time. We will pursue you.”
Police Chief Robert Noble credited Police Officer James Hannigan with heading the investigation that led to the arrest of the three male teens and the expected arrest of a fourth Croton teen later this week. Noble explained the teens charged were trying to frame an unidentified and uninvolved teen with the graffiti by including his first name “Jackson” and initials “JCC”—evidence that assisted Hannigan and other Yorktown cops with cracking the case.
“That ‘JCC’ was the starting point. That’s where we put it together,” Noble said. “These arrests don’t occur without excellent police work.”
Lucas Belth, 18, was the only defendant named by police. The other two teens arrested were only referenced as being 17 years old. They were all charged with criminal mischief in the third degree, a Class E felony, and criminal impersonation in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor. They all surrendered to police June 7 accompanied by their parents. Police mentioned some of the teens were Jewish.
“We applaud the Yorktown Police Department for identifying the individuals involved in this case, which, understandably, has had a traumatizing impact on the Yorktown community,” Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah stated. “The District Attorney’s Office is now reviewing the evidence in coordination with the Yorktown Police Department to determine the appropriate charges under New York State law.”
Noble noted the charges could be upgraded to aggravated harassment.
Belth is scheduled to appear in Yorktown Justice Court on June 23. The two unidentified teens are slated to appear at the Westchester County Department of Probation on June 16.
“I’m very happy that these (suspects) were not members of our community. We don’t allow this kind of stuff,” Yorktown Councilman Tom Diana remarked. “Hate has no home here. We stand by that. Our Police Department stands by that.”
Councilman Sergio Esposito pointed to social media as a contributing factor in such incidents.
“Words matter. These kids are getting this stuff from social media,” he said. “This is what is exacerbating the problem.”
The Yorktown Town Board is seeking permission from New York State officials to paint a unity mural at the site where the hate speech was discovered.
Since the incident, town officials have adopted a “Hate Has No Home” resolution, along with an anti-Semitism policy, civil rights nondiscrimination statement and a Race Amity Day resolution.
Councilman Ed Lachterman, who has led several of the town’s Holocaust remembrance ceremonies, said “it might be time for us all to look in the mirror.”
“To me this situation is sadder because we have youth here of Jewish descent that tried to weaponize the tools of the Nazis to work against their friends or classmates,” he said. “It’s just a horrible situation.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/