Mahwah, NJ – Three days after an emotional meeting that had Mahwah residents uniting in an effort to have a recently installed eruv removed from their streets, township police are investigating an act of vandalism that damaged the eruv in four separate locations.
Police Chief Jim Batelli said that investigators are reviewing surveillance footage in an attempt to identify the parties who attempted to remove the eruv’s recently installed PVC piping from utility poles on Sparrowbush Road and East Mahwah Road.
Since the incident targeted a specific religious group it is being investigated as a hate crime, said Batelli. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office has been notified of the incident.
As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2h5JbWi), more than 200 Mahwah residents gathered at Continental Soldier Field to plan a strategy to deal with the eruv, voicing concerns about what the existence of the eruv could mean for Mahwah. Residents also aired their grievances about out of state residents making unsolicited offers to buy homes for cash and large groups of children from outside Mahwah using local parks.
In his remarks to the crowd, meeting organizer Robert Ferguson urged Mahwah residents not to take matters into their own hands regarding the eruv. Ferguson referenced an online petition opposing the eruv, noting that he had deleted numerous comments from individuals saying that they would remove the eruv’s PVC piping themselves.
“Do not do that,” Ferguson said emphatically. “That doesn’t help us at all. In fact, it makes us look terrible.”
Mahwah mayor Bill Laforet said that he could not comment on an open police investigation but that there is no place for vandalism in Mahwah.
“We are a welcoming, inclusive community and the acts of a few do not represent the people of Mahwah,” said Laforet.
Laforet, who had expressed his frustration at his inability to open a dialogue with the eruv commitee, asked VIN News on Monday to facilitate a conversation that could possibly help alleviate some of the township’s concerns. That discussion took place this week between Laforet and Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz of the Monsey Eruv and was described by the mayor as “productive.”
“There is nothing that can’t be helped through discussion,” noted Laforet.
Anyone with any information regarding the incident is asked to contact the Mahwah Police Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.