Police in the 68th precinct are questioning a person of interest about an overnight spree of vandalism in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn that included the spray-painting of at least four separate religious sites and a private school in the neighborhood.
Authorities were first alerted shortly after 3 a.m. today, when it was found that red paint was painted on an outdoor crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary at St. Anselm's Roman Catholic Church on 356 82nd Street.
Police canvassed the area and found several other vandalism sites, all of which are being investigated by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force.
The word "no" was spray-painted in red on the outside of the Bay Ridge Jewish Center at 405 81st Street.
A red square was painted next to the door of the Union Church of Bay Ridge at 7915 Ridge Boulevard, and the word "no" was spray-painted in red on the church's mailbox.
At the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church at 8502 Ridge Boulevard, the word "on" was spray-painted on the front door.
A swastika and the word "no" were spray-painted on the side of Bay Ridge Preparatory School at 8101 Ridge Boulevard.
Police also found a red "X" painted on the sidewalks in front of buildings at 232 84th Street and 241 84th Street and red dots were painted on the sidewalk in front of a Bank of America at 7923 3rd Avenue.
Three vehicles' license plates were also sprayed near 79th Street and Ridge Boulevard, according to police.
Residents in the area were trying to make sense of the widespread damage to beloved area landmarks.
"That moment of peace in their life in this crazy city. That's what I really feel bad about, not so much that the statue is damaged, but the hurt this does to the people," said the Reverend Martin Kull, an associate pastor at St. Anselm's.
"It breaks your heart. It tears your soul apart. You pray for the sinner," said a parishioner at St. Anselm's.
"This is heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking that someone could do something so disgraceful against any religion," said another parishioner at St. Anselm's.
"It's upsetting, it's terrible, it's horrible that somebody would do this," said Jennifer Kruger of the Union Church of Bay Ridge.
St. Anselm's Church suffered the most damage, and officials there said it will cost them thousands of dollars to fix the damage.
The church's statue of the Virgin Mary was previously vandalized in late May. No arrests have been made yet in connection with that incident.
Leaders at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church said their parish's school, across the street from their church, was also previously vandalized.
"We had white paint thrown against the door and another time we had the locks glued shut," said Chris Ellison of Holy Cross.
Locals hoped that the person or persons responsible for the damage would be caught.
"I'm heart-broken that people could be so cruel. It's our religion," said a Bay Ridge resident. "Shame on you, you must be full of the devil."
Anyone with information on these incidents should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.