BATAVIA – Batavia police called the four reports of rainbow Pride flag thefts and damage to flag poles this week a “hate crime investigation” on its Facebook page.
Under Illinois law, a hate crime is defined as the motivating factor in an action taken against someone that includes sexual orientation and race. The criminal action itself ranges from physical assault and battery to misdemeanor theft or criminal damage to property, according to state statutes (www.ilga.gov).
In all, five flags and their poles were stolen, and most of their bases damaged, and in a fifth report, a Black Lives Matter sign was also reported stolen in the same time period early on Wednesday morning.
Two flag thefts occurred in the 500 block of Houston Street, one was in the 1200 block of Creek Lane and one in the 600 block of Church Road, according to the release. However, an American flag at the Creek Lane house was unaffected, according to a police report.
The Black Lives Matter sign was stolen from a house in the 500 block of North College Street in the same time period, police spokeswoman Michelle Langston said.
“We’ve been out canvassing,” Langston said, of how police are continuing to investigate, as doorbell cameras have not been picked up anything definitive.
“We’re a little perplexed. The doorbell cameras are usually pretty good about picking stuff up,” Langston said. “Maybe they (the cameras) need a wider view.”
Still, one doorbell camera did pick something up, as a police report stated that a neighbor’s doorbell camera “captured a dark hatchback or small SUV traveling south on North College Street,” where the Black Lives Matter sign was stolen.
“It stopped in front of the driveway. While stopped, a male subject exits passenger side and starts to run toward victim’s house. The male subject stops about half way and then continues to the area of the Black Lives Matter sign,” the report stated. “At the time of writing this report, I am unable to identify the vehicle make (or) model and a suspect(s).”
‘Love will prevail’
None of the flags or signs stolen, nor the flag poles were that expensive, estimated at $20 to $35 to replace, according to the police reports.
But it’s not the cost to replace stolen flags, poles or signs that is so disturbing, according to Batavia 3rd Ward Alderman Dan Chanzit.
“Attacking someone’s home like this violates their sense of belonging,” said Chanzit, who is gay.
But the reaction of outrage and support in the community has been heartening.
“It has been such a joy to watch this community come together to say, ‘We reject this type of mischief.’ And while I don’t speak for the City Council, just last week we unanimously supported the mayor’s Pride Month proclamation and his public stance on inclusion and diversity. It is fair to say we believe love will prevail.”
Scott Naylor, a suburban firefighter who has 16 pride flags in his yard in the 300 block of North Jefferson Street, said his house was egged Wednesday night but his doorbell camera didn’t pick anything up.
“It’s the third time we’ve been egged,” Naylor said. “We have a doorbell camera and cameras in the yard, but nothing was picked up. We think they stand in a neighbor’s yard and throw eggs across by the driveway and it doesn’t get picked up.”
The 16 flags represent all the different orientations and identities in the LGBTQ community, he said.
“I am a part of the LGBTQ community, as is my wife. We have four kids and two of them identify as part of the community. And two are still in the process of how they identify,” Naylor said.
He called the stolen flags and broken poles an attack on the LGBTQ community and its allies.
“We feel this kind of treatment needs to come to an end,” Naylor said.
Naylor said not only does Batavia have a large LGBTQ community, it also has a lot of allies who support them.
“Any group of people – if they didn’t have supporters outside of their community of orientation or identify or race – it would be nearly impossible to effect any kind of change,” Naylor said.
Black Lives Matter
Jenna W., who reported the BLM sign stolen, asked that she not be identified by her full name for her personal safety.
“I can’t say I’m surprised that it happened,” Jenna said. “There’s been kind of a climate since we put it up. A lot of our neighbors were not happy.”
When the couple – who are white – put the sign up in their yard over a year ago, someone pulled it up and stomped on it, Jenna said.
They put the sign in a planter on their porch closer to the house.
“There was an increase in dog waste in our yard after that,” Jenna said.
The dog waste on their lawn deescalated as the sign’s novelty wore off, she said, but starting in January this year, someone would come up to their front door, pound on it and then run away when they answered.
The couple got a doorbell camera and the door pounding stopped, she said.
“We never saw who it was,” she said.
And now their sign was stolen, apparently in the same timeframe as the stolen rainbow Pride flags.
She knows the sign was stolen between 2:15 a.m. and sunrise on June 15, because the camera is motion-activated. At 2:15 a.m. the sign was there. By sunrise, it was gone, and no one appeared in the surveillance video.
“I don’t get why people are so upset,” Jenna said.
But the thief won’t have the last word, as far as Jenna is concerned.
“We ordered five more signs and increased footage on the camera,” Jenna said. “We ordered two more Black Lives Matter signs, two pride signs and a pride flag.”
Police are asking that everyone in the affected areas check their video and security cameras as well, and if any applicable footage is located, please call 630-454-2500.