State College police say two white, college-age men are behind what authorities are calling a hate crime at a predominantly Jewish fraternity.
Police released images Thursday of two men who are suspected of spray painting anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas on cars and a building at Beta Sigma Beta.
The photos were taken from a security camera behind the fraternity on Berry Alley and apparently show one suspect spray painting and another looking on in the background. The incident happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 8.
“We are hopeful with additional information and the photographs people will look carefully (and) that somebody will recognize somebody and do the right thing,” said Police Chief Tom King.
“This isn’t some minor situation,” King said. “This is hatred directed toward a group of people.”
Police and others are taking it seriously enough that they have upped a possible reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction to $5,000.
“This is not just a minor situation — maybe something that someone considered as a prank or something that’s funny,” King said. “This is intolerance. This is hate. This is directed toward a predominantly Jewish fraternity.
“Like anywhere across the country, and definitely in this community, there is really no tolerance for that kind of hatred,” he said.
Beta Sigma Beta can trace its roots back to 1910, when the first chapter was founded at Cornell University. The organization established a second chapter three years later at Penn State, according to the group’s website.
The fraternity was founded as a direct result of discrimination, when several Jewish students who were denied entry to other frats because of their religion started with own, Jeffrey Licht, president of the fraternity’s alumni association, posted on the site.
“Today, while predominantly a Jewish house, we have brothers worthy of being a Beta Sig based on merit versus religion or race,” Licht wrote. “Our undergraduates and alumni are disgusted by the recent hate crimes committed against our property and our brothers’ cars. There should be no place for anti-semitism in our country, let alone potentially matriculating within our prestigious university or living in our beloved Happy Valley.”
Penn State officials, including university President Rodney Erickson, have also spoken out about the vandalism. In a letter to the editor submitted to the Centre Daily Times, the officials wrote that “hateful behavior that feeds anxiety and division among us simply must not stand.”
Police, the fraternity’s alumni association and the Penn State Interfraternity Council have combined to offer the cash reward.
“All of us just find this unconscionable and something we really need the public’s help to hold these people accountable,” King said.
Anyone who may recognize the suspects or has any information about this crime can contact police at 814-234-7150 or submit an anonymous tip online
The footage shows the men damaging cars to the rear of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity and then walking north on Berry Alley toward Nittany Avenue, spray painting cars and other property behind Beta Sigma Beta.
Police said much of the vandalism was directed toward Beta Sigma Beta.
One man was dressed in dark clothing and the second was wearing a light-colored jacket and blue jeans, police said.
It was the second major act of vandalism at a Penn State fraternity in a one-week span.
Police are also investigating a suspicious fire that destroyed a storage shed Nov. 1 at Alpha Gamma Rho, on Fraternity Row. Investigators said the fire was “suspicious” and that a cushioned chair was placed near the shed and used to ignite the blaze.
“Those two happened back-to-back, but we really think in the last five or six weeks at fraternity properties (vandalism is up),” King said.
King called the trend a concern and said police have been working with Penn State officials to gain possible information about the crimes. But the vandalism against Beta Sigma Beta is a priority.
“There is a clear line, and this stepped far over the line,” King said.