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Hate vandals may be friends, detective says

Posted: September 4, 2008 10:25 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 
Two hate crimes in Saugus might turn out to be a prank performed by friends but detectives aren't laughing.

Swastikas and racial slurs were written in shoe polish on two similar-looking pickups Aug. 31.

Vandals committed the two crimes a block away from each other - on Woodside Drive and Starwood Way in Saugus, said Detective Chris Keeling of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Hate Crimes Division.
Keeling thinks friends of the victims tagged both trucks.

Keeling began investigating Tuesday by contacting both victims.

The Starwood Drive victim told Keeling the taggers were close friends, pointing to his name written on the back of the truck as evidence.

"(The victim) chose not to press charges because he didn't want his friends to get into trouble," Keeling said.

The second victim has yet to contact Keeling or deputies.

Depending on what the victim wants to do the investigation may stop altogether, Keeling said.

Keeling's investigation has been full of surprises.

The tagged-truck owners were unaware deputies were contacted about the crime, Keeling said. He was also shocked by the victim's attitude about the crime.

"He thought the tagging wasn't a big deal," Keeling said.

Dedicating time to investigate a prank that resembles a hate crime takes Keeling away from investigating real hate crimes and hate groups and gives the appearance that hate crimes aren't a big deal, he said.

"It's very frustrating," he said.

The victims might not have a problem with the crimes but they aren't the only people affected by the prank, Keeling said.

"Hate crimes are community crimes. Anyone who saw these markings are also victims," he said.

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