New Castle police are investigating another three hate incidents last week as Black Lives Matters signs were stolen from two churches and anti-Semitic and racist graffiti was discovered in a Chappaqua train station parking lot.
Last Thursday morning, a local resident found graffiti written in chalk on the pavement in the rear parking lot with a reference to Anne Frank, according to Town Supervisor Ivy Pool. Then the word “Nigeria” was written and a penis was drawn nearby. The graffiti was quickly removed by the town’s Department of Public Works.
That night at about 10 p.m. the Black Lives Matter sign at the First Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco on Route 133 was stolen. The pair of incidents follows the theft of a Black Lives Matter sign at the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua earlier in the week.
Police Chief James Carroll announced Monday that the department is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the recent crimes. The investigation is ongoing, he said.
“Solving these crimes and ensuring public safety is of paramount importance to us,” Carroll said in a statement. “We want to bring justice to all that are affected by these acts and hope the reward money will provide an incentive for anyone with information to come forward.”
The latest incidents come after a Black Lives Matter banner at the Chappaqua Friends Meeting House was defaced twice in late July and early August before being set on fire on Aug. 6. The following week a noose was spray painted on Cross Ridge Road near a Black family’s home.
“The Town of New Castle is committed to transparency and action. Not only will we continue to say ‘Hate Has No Home Here,’ ‘Love thy Neighbor,’ ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘All are Welcome Here,’ but we will back up our words with actions,” Pool said.
Town officials denounced the latest incidents and vowed that neither the town nor its residents will be intimidated by retreating from its efforts to promote social justice. In June, New Castle created the Council on Race and Equity (CRE), which is expected to make specific recommendations to the Town Board in the coming weeks on how to promote racial equity. It also has a Holocaust and Human Rights Commission to educate students and the larger community about genocide.
Officials also said they don’t believe that the town is being targeted for its aggressiveness in combating racism, but Deputy Supervisor Jeremy Saland said if that is a motivation for the perpetrators, their attempt will fail.
“When we see things that are critically important to this community and beyond, we will stand up and we’ll be heard, and if that galvanizes people to come at us, I wouldn’t say so be it and let them come, it’s not going to have the impact they think it’s going to have because it’s just going to further our resolve to do the right thing,” Saland said.
Pool said these types of aggression are surfacing in other communities, although New Castle sometimes finds itself in the spotlight, which may make these incidents stand out.
“I think at times we become the subject of interest in the county and more broadly because we have a reputation as a liberal community, and so it is of note to people when these things start to happen here,” Pool said. “We as a town, as a community made a commitment to not sweeping this under the rug. We are very committed to being transparent and being honest and to being active on this.”
Councilwoman Lisa Katz mentioned that the town is focusing on education and activities apart from the police investigation. She pointed to the work being done by the CRE and the Holocaust and Human Rights Commission to help others understand the impact of hate.
“I think we’re doing all we can to really educate the residents and try to stop hatred as much as we can,” Katz said.
Rev. Dr. Martha Jacobs, the pastor at the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua, said the church will replace its sign as soon as possible and will continue to do that no matter how often it may be stolen. Jacobs said there are certain issues that are important enough where a stand must be taken, and it’s strengthening the resolve of many in the community who are working toward equality.
“Certainly, it’s driving a wedge in this community because it’s ongoing, and I think what it’s doing is it’s making more people want to come out and protect and support the fact Black lives matter, and they matter more right now because they’re so much in danger,” said Jacobs, who is also co-chair of the Interfaith Council of Chappaqua.
State Sen. Peter Harckham (D-Lewisboro) said while there have been reports of similar isolated incidents throughout his district, including confrontations at rallies and protests in Putnam County, it appears that New Castle has experienced it at a greater rate.
“As you know, we speak out forcefully against them all the time whenever they happen, but right now there seems to be some connection with them in New Castle, which is disgusting, it’s disturbing and it’s got to be stopped,” he said.
Anyone with information about the incidents is encouraged to contact the New Castle Police Department at 914-238-4422 or submit an anonymous tip online at https://local.nixle.com/tip/new-castle-police-department/ or text 888-777 and start the message with TIPNC911.