MAHWAH, N.J. -- Whoever vandalized a half-dozen sections of eruv in Mahwah over the weekend will be charged under state hate crime statutes, Police Chief James Batelli said Sunday.
The PVC piping, used to create a special religious enclosure for Hassidics attending temple services across the state line in Rockland County, has stirred a firestorm in Mahwah since installations began in June.
SEEN THEM? A couple was caught on surveillance camera damaging an eruv, Mahwah police said.
Rockland Utilities said the work was done legally after the proper documentation was filed and approved.
A Monsey-based group sued the township in federal court on Friday, contending its members' civil rights were being violated by officials and residents who are trying to have the eruvs removed.
SEE: A Rockland County group on Friday filed a federal lawsuit against the township of Mahwah, citing "government interference," "hostility and rank prejudice" and an "openly anti-Semitic campaign" that violates its civil rights to construct an eruv.
Township police already were investigating previous damage to the eruvs when a resident alerted them to four more on Saturday, Batelli said. Responding officers found an additional two damaged, he said.
All were in the area of East Crescent Avenue.
The eruvs “appeared to have been struck with some type of blunt object, which caused the PVC pipe to splinter leaving a small section missing approximately two to three feet off of the ground,” the chief said.
“It appears the damage was caused sometime between Friday evening and the time it was reported, although during a canvassing of the neighborhood one resident reported possibly observing the damage as early as Thursday,” Batelli said.
“Officers canvassed the entire neighborhood, but no resident reported seeing or hearing anything unusual within the past 48 hours.”
Because no other criminal mischief was reported, “it appears that the eruvs were specifically targeted,” the chief said.
New Jersey law mandate severe penalties for those convicted of hate or bias crimes – including possible prison sentences.
Batelli said detectives have already received some solid leads. He also urged anyone who saw anything or has information that could help the investigation to call Mahwah Detective Sergeant Kevin Hebert at (201) 529-1000 ext. 220 or anonymously send information to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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