MOUNT FOREST – Police are investigating several potential hate crimes after swastikas were marked in the bathrooms at the library, arena and a restaurant here this week.
The first incident involved someone carving swastikas into the walls of a washroom at Wellington County’s library branch in Mount Forest on Jan. 5.
Wellington County OPP spokesperson Josh Cunningham confirmed police are investigating the washroom vandalism, which also involved clogged toilets.
“The investigation has just started to take place,” he told the Advertiser on Jan. 6.
According to county spokesperson Andrea Ravensdale, at around 5pm on Thursday a patron alerted branch staff that toilets had been intentionally clogged, causing the washroom to flood.
“When staff went to investigate, not only was it flooding, there was anti-Semitic vandalism inside,” Ravensdale said by phone.
The OPP’s major crime unit will be notified of the vandalism, which occurred sometime between 10am and 3:30pm, with investigators seeking to understand the motivation behind it.
“We’re treating it as a possible hate crime,” Cunningham said.
But proving a hate crime from a legal perspective requires that police dig into a person’s intent.
“We’re certainly investigating it with the potential that is was hate motivated,” Cunningham said.
“The anti-Semitic nature of a swastika certainly leads us in that direction.”
In a press release sent later in the day on Jan. 6, Cunningham stated there were three other similar incidents of vandalism reported in Mount Forest.
Sometime between 4 and 6pm on Jan. 4, someone clogged the toilets with toilet paper and turned over garbage cans in a bathroom at the Mount Forest and District Sports Complex.
The next day, between 4 and 6pm, someone “lit toilet paper on fire and marked swastikas and vulgar rhetoric on a bathroom wall” at the arena, Cunningham stated.
“We’re hoping that the community may have some ideas or tips for us, so we’re going to be reaching out and canvassing,” Cunningham told the Advertiser.
Anyone with information regarding these incidents can contact the Wellington County OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.