New Jersey police have charged a man after a house was burnt to the ground and more than a dozen homes were vandalised with swastika graffiti.
Condemning “senseless acts of bigotry and hate,” New Jersey police charged Ron Carr, 34, with 36 criminal counts, including aggravated arson, criminal mischief and “bias intimidation”.
Carr allegedly told police he torched the house and painted the swastikas because he thought the owners were Jewish.
The attacks took place in Manchester Township, an area of New Jersey where increasing numbers of strictly Orthodox Jews have moved in recent years.
Police first received reports of vandalism at about 11.45pm last Tuesday.
At 3.11am, they responded to a house fire in the same neighbourhood and received reports of a suspicious person in the area.
The individual identified matched the description of the graffiti suspects.
In a joint statement, Ocean County prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and the state’s attorney general Matthew Platkin said those who felt entitled to “trample on their neighbours’ rights to live in peace and exercise their constitutional freedoms” would not find safe haven in New Jersey.
“Random acts of hate designed to instil fear and to violate New Jerseyans’ sense of security and belonging, solely based on who they are and what they believe in, will be dealt with swiftly and harshly by law enforcement,” he said.
Platkin said: “This crime spree and the antisemitism that it expressed caused pain, destruction, shock and fear among the residents of Manchester Township.
“No community in the State of New Jersey should feel vulnerable or anxious in the face of acts of intolerance. No resident should feel their personal safety or their home is threatened by bigotry, persecution and violence."
Manchester Township Mayor Robert Arace said he was "profoundly grateful and proud" of the police response.
"In the face of adversity, let us unite against hate and intolerance,” he said.
“Manchester is a place where compassion, respect and understanding prevail. We can build a community that exemplifies their values and ensures a safe and welcoming environment."
Billhimer said: “I am thankful no one was injured in these senseless acts of bigotry and hate.
“This type of behaviour will not be tolerated in Ocean County and the seriousness of these charges reflect our unwavering commitment to prosecuting bias crimes to the fullest extent of the law."
In recent years, Manchester Township has become a haven for Charedim priced out of nearby Lakewood, home to the world’s largest yeshiva outside Israel.
Speaking to Hamodia in 2021, one local resident said they had moved to access affordable housing.
They added: “About 20 [strictly Orthodox] families live here now; some more families have bought houses and are delaying moving in because they don't need the space yet, or because they're waiting for the frum presence to become more established.”