A suspected vandal struck at Herbert Hoover Elementary School and the surrounding Middletown Township area around the same time the country felt racial tensions rise.
Most of the nation gathered around their televisions last Saturday, August 12 as a two-sided, tragic protest transcended in Charlottesville, Virginia following the decision of a Robert E. Lee statue’s demise. Around the country, more than eight protests arose as pressures mounted between the “alt-right” and the “alt-left.”
Boston, Los Angeles, New York and beyond joined to share their freedom of speech right. In Philadelphia, the focus moved to former Mayor Francis “Frank” Rizzo and the statue that stands outside of City Hall.
But Chief Joseph Bartorilla of the Middletown Township Police Department found no clear correlation.
“A, it’s criminal, B, it’s stupid and obviously it’s racist,” Chief Bartorilla shared.
The Middletown Township Police Department was called around 11:20 p.m. on Friday, August 18 by residents of the Middletown Trace Apartments. The occupants had inappropriate body parts drawn on their windows with markers.
The police received a description of a white teenage male with a gray sweatshirt, black pants, and a backpack in the area who went towards Hoover Elementary. Three officers with a K9 attempted to locate the suspect but were unsuccessful.
The Middletown Police cleared the racial and anatomy parts off several windows and doors along the Hoover perimeter. However, the welcome sign went unnoticed.
Parents taking their children to a soccer camp were the first to see the welcome sign. One parent chose to share a picture of the vandalism with The Peace Center of Bucks County’s Facebook page.
Barbara Simmons, Executive Director of The Peace Center, put buckets and scrub brushes in her car and fled to Hoover on Saturday morning. But by the time Simmons got there, the soccer parents had taken care of the negative graffiti.
Simmons then began to organize a Town Hall in light of the incident.
“We are going to facilitate a dialogue, let them (the community) talk about what this felt like for them, and then we’ll talk about solutions.”
Simmons allotted to the country wide protests and described the “kids” behavior as a “punk on the community.”
In addition to the apartment and elementary school graffiti, Nicole Rosenburg, 23, had her car vandalized with similar language and imagery.
Rosenburg was shocked but continues to think of Middletown as a peaceful neighborhood.
“To write those offensive words on an elementary school sign blows my mind,” she wrote in a message, “but to do it to a random person’s car is absurd.”
Rosenburg explained she use to walk to Hoover Elementary nearly every day as a former student and sees this recent incident as posing a possible threat to the community.
“I am not a parent but if I were I would be afraid something more could happen,” Rosenburg added.
The Peace Center will guide conversation from community members on Thursday, August 24 at the Middletown Township Building on Municipal Way in Langhorne from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“As a community, those are our kids,” Simmons explained, “we need to figure out how the community wants to respond.”
Chief Bartarillo, who has led the Middletown Police Department for three years, thinks the idea is great and will be in attendance.
He defined, “Middletown is really a tight knit community and the Neshaminy School District is a great district. This must have been alarming to the parents dropping their kids off that morning.”
The incident remains under investigation by the Middletown Township Police Department. Anyone with information is asked to contact the anonymous tip line at (215) 750-3888.