Graffiti expressing hatred toward white people investigated as hate crime, Palo Alto police say

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Police in Palo Alto are asking for the public's help in solving a recent string of hate crimes and incidents.

The latest case happened this week at El Camino Park, in which an officer on foot patrol Wednesday discovered a derogatory racial statement inside the men's restroom.

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Officials say the graffiti expressed hatred toward white people.

"We have to look at it from the standpoint that we may have an individual here who espouses to do something worse, so this is our starting point," says acting Lt. Brian Philip. "Any damage like that to our city property is obviously concerning to us because it's vandalism...if that vandalism expresses hatred of a particular group, then we can elevate that to a hate crime investigation."

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This incident is the latest in a series reported to police, including vandalism at the same location in May. And, earlier this spring, hate messages against Black people were spray-painted on a curb near a children's play structure at Heritage Park.

Philip added, "We're trying to figure out are they linked, is it the same person responsible for all of them... we don't know at this point."

According to the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission, the city is dealing with an overall uptick in hate crimes or incidents since March of last year, including violence against Asian Americans, and the defacing of signs related to the Black Lives Matter movement.

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"It's very disturbing once we start seeing patterned behavior," says Rev. Kaloma Smith, who leads University AME Zion Church, the oldest Black church in Palo Alto, which was desecrated in the last year. "We need people to report any incident, no matter how small or minor it might seem."

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