The Palm Springs Police Department launched an investigation on Saturday morning into a possible hate crime after a swastika was found drawn outside of a Jewish attorney’s office.
The Nazi symbol was drawn on a sign visible from South Palm Canyon Drive in front of attorney Bob Weinstein’s office. As a Jewish man, Weinstein said he felt it was a personal attack.
“This is a horrible crime,” he told The Desert Sun. “I’m especially affected by it because they know I’m Jewish, with a name like that, and they know I’m in this building ’cause my name’s on the building. My family survived the Holocaust so we’re very sensitive to those kind of hate signs.”
Weinstein said he noticed the swastika on his way into his office near the intersection of East Mesquite Avenue and South Palm Canyon Drive around 11:30 a.m. He said he “went into shock” before quickly calling the police. Officers responded to the scene about 11:53 a.m., according to a news release.
He took pictures of the swastika before an employee of O’Linn Security Inc, his office neighbor, tried to remove the hate symbol with a wet rag, Weinstein said. They were able to erase most of the image with paint remover, he said. Initially it was thought to be paint but police said it was drawn with crayon.
Weinstein suspects that a group of homeless people, who he said he asked to leave the property late Friday night, may be responsible.
Weinstein said there are several public cameras at the corner of East Mesquite Avenue and South Palm Canyon Drive, so he was confident police would find the suspect or suspects. “We’ll catch him, and we’re going to fully prosecute,” he said. “I’ll fully prosecute.” Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon called the incident “a most disturbing and despicable crime.”
He planned to attend a Shabbat service this week and assure the congregation “we will not tolerate this kind of hate in our city,” Moon said. Police said they had been “unable to locate any evidence which would lead to a possible suspect,” in a news release issued Saturday afternoon.
“There were no threats of violence associated with this symbol at this time,” the news release stated.
Weinstein said he helped organize an interfaith event in February at Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs which was “against hate in general.”
“Hatred against Jews is out of control right now,” he said. “Hatred is just out of control all over the country.” Weinstein said he attributes it to “extreme polarity and our political environment.” The latest available FBI data on hate crimes in the U.S. showed an increase in hate crimes from 2016 to 2017 for motivations including race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and gender.
Categories with the greatest number of reports of hate crimes included race and religion. Reports of hate crimes over race or ethnicity rose from 3,489 to 4,131 and reports of hate crimes related to race increased from 1,273 to 1,564 from 2016 to 2017.
Weinstein said he was surprised to see a prominent Nazi symbol in Palm Springs, given its inclusive environment. He said his business had never been targeted before.
“There’s zero tolerance for this kind of thing here,” he said. “For this to show up, it is shocking.”
Weinsten ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Palm Springs in 2015 on a campaign focused on decreasing crime, according to an article published in The Desert Sun. Several break-ins at his business inspired him to run for office, according to the article.
Police said the investigation was ongoing and urged anyone with information to call the non-emergency number for the Palm Springs Police Department at (760) 323-1441.