Living Torah Center Chabad, a Jewish synagogue in Santa Monica, has experienced its share of anti-semitic acts over the past couple years ranging from a man interrupting a service by yelling, “Heil Hitler” to a letter containing an anti-semitic message left in the synagogue’s mailbox. The most recent incident was discovered by a Rabbi who arrived Christmas morning to the repugnant sight of feces and food smeared across the entrance. Synagogue officials believe the vandalism to be racially motivated and although Santa Monica Police Department has not officially classified the criminal act as a Hate Crime, detectives have not ruled out the possibility as their investigation continues.
In California, the property crime of vandalism is typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense under Penal Code statute 594(a) and is described as defacing with graffiti or an inscribed object, damaging, or destroying real or personal property that is not his or her own. However, vandalizing a building owned and occupied by a religious institution primarily used as a place of worship can be charged as felony vandalism under Penal Code 594.3(a), thus increasing the punishment range. In addition, a Hate Crime special circumstance allegation would further enhance sentencing.