Austin police are addressing safety concerns with the Muslim community after a series of crimes at a mosque and middle eastern grocery store. “The windows have been vandalized, tires have been slashed, but the psychological and emotional ramifications we’re just beginning now to feel, where our children are wondering are they safe? Where our sisters, some of them, are feeling a little bit more vulnerable,” said Imam Islam Mossaad of the North Austin Muslim Community Center.
The personal safety training was held at the North Austin Muslim Community Center Friday evening.
The first time someone targeted the mosque was in August. Then, the vandal caused more than $3,000 worth of damage at the place of worship in early September.
About two weeks later the mosque got hit again.
After the third incident, faith leaders called the attacks a hate crime.
“We believe that because of the targeted nature of it, where glass is broken and nothing is stolen, where one of the vans were urinated upon, so this is more trying to send a message of hate as opposed to, again, a person burglarizing or just random criminal activity,” Mossaad said.
Police have obtained surveillance video from the mosque as well as the New Medina Market where someone damaged the front door just this week.
The person of interest in both cases appears to be the same. Mossaad has this message for the vandal, “We love you as our human brother and we care for you as a young person growing up in this country, alongside our young people, but the activities that you have done as a young person, they have really affected the vulnerabilities of a community that is a minority in this country.”
Police said they have stepped up patrols and are aggressively investigating the case, but encourage people in the Muslim community to take precautions until a suspect is in custody.
Faith leaders at the North Austin Muslim Community Center said no matter what happens, they will come together to support one another. “We are a resilient community, we are a strong community, we look after one another, take care of one another, but this pattern and repeated nature of the crime has just heightened the situation,” said Mossaad.
Some of the suggestions from police include being aware of surroundings, developing an emergency response plan, and reporting all suspicious activity.
Police ask anyone with information about these crimes to report it to Crimestoppers.