Suffolk County police are investigating a possible hate crime at a Babylon Town senior center, according to a department release.
Police said a scarecrow was found hanging from a noose behind the North Amityville Senior Center on Cedar Road after being taken down from a display at the facility’s front.
The incident occurred sometime between 4:40 p.m. Friday and 12:05 p.m. Monday, according to the release.
Hate Crimes Unit detectives opened an investigation after getting a call from a town employee, a police spokesman said in an email.
Whoever is responsible for the hate crime could be charged with first-degree aggravated harassment, said the spokesman.
Babylon Town officials said they will be increasing public safety patrols around the senior center and plan to meet with members of the community to address any safety concerns.
"Yesterday afternoon, we uncovered a symbol of hatred at the North Amityville Senior Center — a symbol that we vigorously oppose and are disheartened by," Babylon Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said in a statement Tuesday. "In Babylon Town, our diversity is our strength, and we will work closely with the Suffolk County Hate Crimes Unit to find the cowards who did this."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said he was disgusted by the noose "aimed to instill fear in one of our South Shore communities."
"In Suffolk County, when we encounter such repugnant acts of hate we don’t stay silent, we condemn it in the harshest terms possible," Bellone said in a statement Tuesday. "I want all of our neighbors in Suffolk County to know that bigotry, in any form, has no safe haven here and we will do everything in our power to hold those who are responsible accountable."
The hangman’s noose, referencing lynching, is a "key hate symbol targeting African Americans," according to the Anti-Defamation League.
American Indians lived since before the 17th century in the area that became North Amityville, and many Black families established homesteads in the 1800s. In the 1950s, when some housing developments on Long Island followed whites-only policies, the hamlet's Ronek Park subdivision promoted itself as nondiscriminatory. Today, the hamlet is 53.5% Black or African American, according to the U.S. Census.
Staff at the senior center declined to comment Tuesday.
Police ask anyone with information on the crime to call Hate Crimes Unit detectives at 631-852-6553 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story, using incorrect information from the Town of Babylon website that has since been revised, incorrectly described settlement of North Amityville.