Durango’s police chief said it wasn’t until a third incident of someone putting a swastika on a door of a Jewish family living in Three Springs that an investigation began – a delay that upset several Three Springs residents.
Residents communicated among themselves about the swastikas, using an online forum called Nextdoor, but no one reported it to police, including the victims, Chief of Police Kamran Afzal said. It is possible that as residents learned of the incidents, they assumed it had already been reported to police, and so nobody did, he said.
After police began investigating, they learned it had happened on two previous occasions at the same residence.
“People were appalled, and so are we, that somebody in our community is so callous to put a sign of hatred from the 1940s,” Afzal said. “I think it’s a big deal that somebody thinks this is OK to do. We don’t want anybody to be targeted because of their race, religion, how they pray to God, what orientation they have or how old they are.”
The police department held a community meeting last week with about 35 Three Springs residents to explain the situation and to assure them the department is investigating and considers it a serious crime, Afzal said.
Afzal, who became chief earlier this year, said residents should feel comfortable approaching officers and reporting anything suspicious, no matter how small or odd it may seem. And to do it in a timely manner.
He gave one example of someone who called police a few weeks ago to report what appeared to be a kidnapping in Three Springs. Police responded and learned it was friends horsing around – a couple of people pulling a friend into a car, he said.
“But I’m glad that somebody called ... because somebody could have potentially been a witness to a kidnapping and not called us,” Afzal said. “Just because you call us doesn’t mean we’re going to put the handcuffs on them. We’re going to investigate it and see if there’s anything to it.”
Police can’t be everywhere 24/7, he said, so they rely on residents to help be the eyes and ears of the community.
Unfortunately, the victims of the swastikas in Three Springs have since moved away, he said.
“That is my understanding,” Afzal said. “As a result of the third incident ... I guess he called his landlord and decided this was not the place for him. That’s very concerning. I don’t think the La Plata County-Durango community is not welcoming toward its people. I guess if your house had been targeted three times with a swastika, you’d feel that.
“That’s pretty sad from my perspective.”
A similar incident occurred earlier this month at Animas Surgical Center where someone scratched a swastika into the side of a car door. It is unknown if the incidents are related.