Approximately 40 gravestones have been turned over at the Congregation Israel Cemetery and now police in Hartford are calling the incident a hate crime. They have reached out to the Anti-defamation League and increased patrols in the area to catch those responsible for the crimes.
Nine monuments were also toppled at the Congregation Israel Cemetery, which is located at the corner of Waverly Street and Tower Avenue, between Oct. 12-19, according to police. The largest monument in the cemetery, which stood more than 6 feet tall, was also knocked down.
"It's unbelievable, heart rendering," said Herb Shook of Vernon. "It's a terrible thing and what's the gain by something like this?"
An unidentified man who visits the grave of his son every Friday, a former U.S. Army Reserve soldier who died about seven years ago, noticed the damage.
"I immediately raced over to the cemetery and found him in a very distressed way at his son's monument," said Congregation Israel Cemetery President Leonard Holtz. "This is the first time in this community. And I have grown up here in this neighborhood, this is the first time that it has ever happened, which is troubling and perplexing."
Many of the headstones were secured to their bases and could cost more than $20,000 to properly repair.
Holtz told Eyewitness News he believes it is more than one person because the monuments can be several hundred to 1,000 pounds each.
"The fact the largest monument was toppled seems to be a statement," Holtz said. "This is the first time we ever have to consider locking it as a result of this desecration."
On Monday, the Hartford Major Crimes Unit spent the day recanvassing the cemetery.
"We're looking at 30, 40, 50 tombstones, people came with hatred," Shook said. "I trust the Anti-Defamation League will get involved."
Holtz added that cemetery officials are seeing a surge in this type of vandalism within the Jewish community over time.
Between seven and eight years ago, there were 150 monuments that were knocked over in the Zion Hill area cemetery and between five and six years ago, there were 25 monuments knocked over again, Holtz said.
Police have no suspects at this time and extra patrol is being directed to the area. The incident is under investigation by police.
Anyone with any information about the vandalism is asked to call 860-757-4089 or the tip line at 860-722-TIPS (8477). All tips will be kept confidential.
Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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