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Swastika, graffiti lead to hate crime charge for West Seneca teen

A video surveillance camera and an alert employee helped West Seneca catch a repeat graffiti vandal who drew anti-Jewish and racist slogans in the bathroom of the town's new library and community center.

The 17-year-old was charged with a hate crime, and is facing two felony charges.

The offending graffiti, which included a swastika and racist words written on bathroom stalls, was discovered by library staff in early November, said West Seneca Police Lt. James P. Unger. They told buildings and grounds staff, who removed the graffiti each of the four times it was discovered.

Since it happened over a period of time, an extra surveillance video camera was set up in the hallway outside the bathroom. Staff picked out the culprit, and last Friday, a buildings and grounds employee saw the youth go into the center, and into the bathroom, officials said.

"He was caught red-handed," Councilman Gene Hart said.

Police were called, and they detained the youth and brought him in for questioning.

He was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief as a hate crime, and first-degree aggravated harassment for placing a swastika on property, both felonies. He also was charged with misdemeanor charges of criminal tampering and making graffiti.

Police did not release his name because he was under 18, and his case will be heard in Erie County Family Court, Unger said.

Hart said he had seen Nazi swastikas drawn in the bathroom with a black marker. He said he was told there also were anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant and racist comments in the bathroom.

"We have some hate out in the world," he said.

"Unfortunate that it occurred," Supervisor Sheila Meegan said. "It's an isolated situation. It was the same boy each time."

She said the buildings and grounds crew chief kept "a sharp lookout" for the youth because of the video.

Unger said town police typically do not charge many people with hate crimes. But he added, "we will charge it if it fits the crime."

"It’s very sad someone so young would have so much hate," Meegan said.

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