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Clearwater police: 2 teens spray paint cars with hate speech

Some of the language written on the cars included racist, antisemitic and homophobic speech, according to the department.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Two Pinellas County teenagers were arrested for crimes that police say involved racist, antisemitic and homophobic graffiti spray-painted on several cars.

The male teens, identified as a 16-year-old Clearwater High School student and a 16-year-old Largo High School student, were arrested Wednesday following the incidents that happened over the weekend, according to a Clearwater Police Department news release.

A car was damaged in the area of Turtle Brooke and Landmark Drive sometime overnight Saturday into Sunday, while two more incidents on Coachmakers Lane and Stag Run Boulevard happened early Sunday. Other cases occurred in Tarpon Springs and elsewhere in Pinellas County, the department said.

Police say in three of the incidents, cars were damaged and hit with spray paint. Some of the vehicles had their windows shattered while another car had its tire punctured, the department said.

Credit: Clearwater Police Department

In some of those, hateful remarks were marked on the cars.

"What these two bigots did were serious crimes that will affect their future school and professional goals," Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said in a statement. "There is no place for this kind of hate-filled behavior in our community. 

"I'd like to thank our detectives for getting to the bottom of these senseless crimes as quickly as they did."

The teens face charges of criminal mischief, burglary and petit theft in the Clearwater cases, with a hate-crime enhancement added later.

An Anti-Defamation League Report earlier this summer confirms extremism and antisemitism are on the rise in Florida. In 2021, the group reported 190 antisemitic incidents and 186 incidents of white supremacist propaganda statewide.

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