San Francisco Police is now investigating all three vandalism incidents at the city’s Armenian institutions as hate crimes.
Last week’s fire at the Armenian Center adjacent to the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, as well as the graffiti and the subsequent shooting last weekend at the Krouzian-Zekarian Vasbouragan Armenian School have been put the community on edge.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the police department’s Arson Task Force is investigating last Thursday’s fire as a hate crime, while the two incidents at the school are also being given the same treatment.
Police have not taken any suspects into custody in relation to the suspected arson or the two incidents at the KZV Armenian School, SFPD Spokesman Robert Rueca said Wednesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The department has stepped up security around the city, performing nighttime patrols at Armenian churches, the school and the Mt. Davidson Cross Armenian Genocide memorial.
“These acts are being taken very seriously and the leadership of our church, school and other community organizations are responding with vigilance in continuously pressing city officials to work diligently to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” said the Armenian National Committee of America San Francisco Bay Area chapter in a statement it circulated to the community.
“Additionally, steps to further safeguard our places of worship and gathering have been taken, and actions to promote the more long-term security of our community members and assets are being planned for implementation as soon as possible,” added the ANCA-SFBA.
“We are all justifiably angered, saddened, and concerned by these violent attacks, which both Armenian and non-Armenian close observers strongly consider to be related, and borne of longstanding, unresolved hatred of Armenians by Turks and Azeris. Aside from the strong circumstantial evidence, there is also no precedent for attacks on Armenian establishments anywhere in the Bay Area by any other group,” explained the local ANCA chapter.
The organization asked the community urged the community to contact a special hotline to report information regarding the crimes or other hate incident by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (415) 662-8555. “You may rest assured that any information provided would be confidential and shared only with the law enforcement personnel who are investigating these matters,” said the ANCA-SFBA.
A day after the fire last week, the Armenian Cultural Foundation announced a $25,000 for any information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of the individual(s) responsible for the above-referenced crimes.
KZV Principal Grace Andonian reached out to school parents and the community on Wednesday to announce that the school was taking every precaution to ensure the safety of the campus, students, and staff.
“KZV stakeholders and administration held a meeting with the SFPD Assistant Chief and his detectives on Tuesday. Critically, they have advised us to continue our return-to-campus preparations. As a deterrent, we asked for, and they agreed to, station a police unit at school during school hours over the next few weeks,” explained Andonian in her statement.
“We have had multiple on-site visits with law enforcement agencies, specifically to advise on increasing campus security. In addition to the SFPD, we were assigned a detective from the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, a multi-agency task force that specializes in advising on technology to prevent hate crimes. While we cannot discuss the specifics, they have already implemented sophisticated security enhancements designed to both capture the suspects if they return, as well as deter any further activity. A further list of recommendations was provided to the Board to continue to work against,” added Andonian.
“Our fencing project completed the bid process and a deposit was made to begin construction. We will be installing new security fencing around the sides and rear hillside, along with privacy mesh. We will increase the height of the front gates in a parallel process, though that is a longer process because the fencing requires custom work, both for aesthetics, and to work with both our parking and entry gates,” Andonian updated on the measures being taken to fortify and secure the school. “Additional high definition security cameras facing the exterior of the school were installed over the weekend and are now operational.”
“While these recent events are jarring, they are an opportunity for us to be realistic about the world we exist in, and to be not only reactive but proactive in enhancing the safety, security, and sense of community that is the pride of KZV,” Andonian urged the community.