WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — The mayor of Waukegan said Thursday an arrest is imminent in a spate of vandalizations of north suburban houses of worship.
Waukegan police have used surveillance video from one of the incidents to identify a suspect who was seen driving off in a light-colored Nissan SUV, and officers have been monitoring the suspect’s home to make an arrest.
Eleven houses of worship in Gurnee and Waukegan have been sprayed with graffiti mocking their congregations’ faiths in the past week.
In each of the incidents, someone has spray-painted a smiley face and obscene anti-religious messages on the building.
The two most recent incidents were Sunday at the Islamic Foundation North in Waukegan, and St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, which is located about a quarter mile away in Waukegan, but has a Libertyville mailing address. Nine houses of worship in Gurnee also were vandalized in the past week, although police have not identified the specific institutions.
Surveillance cameras at the Islamic Foundation North recorded a person driving a light-colored Nissan SUV. Police were assigned to monitor the suspect’s home, and make an arrest.
Motley said it’s important to send a message that such vandalism will not be permitted, and he expected the suspect would be charged with hate crimes when he is taken into custody.
“The minute we found out what occurred with all the different religious groups, and what had happened to their churches and synagogues and temples, I immediately assigned every detective in our city on that case, to resolve this issue, and arrest the perpetrator,” he said.
Matthew Ramadan, deputy executive director for the Illinois Council of Islamic Organizations, said the vandalism only served to bring the various faiths closer together.
“We’ve gotten continuous calls from all our other friends in the faith community – from Rabbi Balinsky with the Chicago Board of Rabbis, to the United Methodist Church, to the Presbyterian Church. Everybody’s been calling us. The (Roman Catholic) Archdiocese has called us, and said ‘How can we help? What can we do to stand with you?’”
Ramadan said he has no anger in his heart toward the vandal. He just hopes he has a chance to meet with the suspect, to express the impact of the vandalism.
Motley said he’s convinced the acts of vandalism were not a coordinated anti-religious attack, just the outburst of one troubled person.