The Concord police are offering an increased $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case of the racist graffiti that appeared last month on the home of a Somalian family on Thompson Street.
The Concord Area Task Force Against Racism and Intolerance and the owner of the Thompson Street building, Tom Fredenburg, joined the Concord Regional Crimeline and a local businessman in putting money toward the reward, Concord police Chief John Duval said during a press conference yesterday at the police station.
The announcement came nearly a year after someone scrawled racist messages onto the homes of several refugee families on Perley and Downing streets. No arrests have been made in any of the cases, but the police suspect the same person may be responsible.
"We're hoping this will stimulate somebody in the community to give us a call who was maybe on the fence before," Concord police Lt. Timothy O'Malley said during the press conference.
The police have less than two weeks to make an arrest in the graffiti cases datingto last September, since the statute of limitations is about to expire, O'Malley said. He said the police haven't received any recent leads in those cases, which involved graffiti written on three homes on Perley and Downing streets describing the occupants as "subhumans" who weren't wanted in the community.
The messages appeared overnight and were written in black permanent marker, as was the one discovered Aug. 5 on the home on Thompson Street. "We cannot exist with third world scum," the message declared.
Detectives circulated fliers with handwriting samples after the incident, rearranging words written on the Thompson Street house and the houses last fall into positive messages conveying the opposite meanings of the original versions, such as "You are welcome here."
The altered messages were on display again yesterday during the press conference. Asked whether the police are trying to spur a reaction from the person responsible, O'Malley said their intent was to stop perpetuating the hateful message but called that possibility "a side benefit."
County and federal law enforcement officials, including U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire John Kacavas, yesterday pledged to support the Concord police in their investigation.
While he said the graffiti incidents wouldn't qualify for prosecution under the new federal hate crimes act, which requires bodily injury or an attempt to impose it, "we take these acts of cowardice very seriously, and where we can, we will prosecute them," Kacavas said.
If caught, the person responsible for the graffiti could face two to five years in prison under a state statute that allows for enhanced penalties for hate crimes, according to Merrimack County Scott Murray, whose office would be prosecuting the cases.
"These are difficult cases to prove, because of the nature, the way the crime is being perpetrated," Murray said, encouraging anyone with information to come forward.
Tips can be made anonymously through the Concord Regional Crimeline by calling 226-3100, by visiting concordregionalcrimeline.com, or by texting TIP234 and sending a message to CRIMES.
(Maddie Hanna can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)