BANGOR — Police arrested two 17-year-old boys from Bangor and one from Orrington for spray-painted swastikas and other graffiti on two synagogues on York Street late Tuesday, and arrested one of the same teens again early Wednesday for tagging a stop sign.
The two Bangor teenagers, who were not identified because they are juveniles, face felony aggravated criminal mischief charges and the Orrington boy was charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief/vandalism “directly related to graffiti over the past weekend and this summer,” Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards said in a press release. “The three boys were mostly cooperative with Detective [Jim] Carr and as a result of his investigation many of the [open] cases of graffiti will be cleared.”
The synagogue graffiti included Nazi swastikas — an anti-Semitic symbol — and an upside-down cross with the numbers “666″ — known as a sign of the devil — placed across the top. The graffiti was applied Friday night to the steps and pillars of Congregation Beth Israel and Beth Abraham Synagogue on York Street while people were inside the building.
“Graffiti is one thing, but when it starts becoming swastikas on synagogues, it’s no longer just graffiti. It’s a hate crime,” Bangor attorney Norman Minsky said over the weekend.
Minsky, who had European relatives on his father’s side whose lives were affected by the Nazis during World War II, was attending services at Beth Israel when the initial vandalism occurred.
The vandalism happened during the Jewish High Holy Days, a 10-day period of prayer that starts with Rosh Hashanah — the first day of the Jewish year and anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve — and ends with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.
The case will be sent to the Maine Attorney General’s Office for review to see whether the crime is deemed a hate crime under state law covering the desecration and defacement of places of worship, Edwards said.
One of the Bangor teens was arrested again at about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday when officers responded to State Street for a different call and discovered fresh graffiti, followed by a report of four people spray painting a stop sign at the intersection of Garland and Essex streets.
Officers converged on the area and arrested the Bangor teenager and another 17-year-old boy from Hampden and charged them both with misdemeanor criminal mischief.
BDN reporter Andrew Neff contributed to this story.