Amid concerns of rising anti-Semitism, a 65-year-old Brooklyn man was arrested Monday for drawing swastikas in men’s bathrooms in Penn Station.
The arrest of the suspect, Pasquale Vargas, was confirmed Monday by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
This was not the first time Vargas has been accused of vandalism. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, police believe Vargas is responsible for other incidents of hate crime vandalism at Penn Station since February 28.
“This arrest sends a clear message that all hate crimes will be thoroughly investigated, and we will prosecute those found responsible for perpetrating these reprehensible actions,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
“We have zero tolerance for these acts of bigotry, which stand in direct contrast to the values that we New Yorkers represent.”
According to the New York Daily News, Vargas scrawled messages such as “KKK” and “Mexicans go home.” Vargas reportedly told police he had committed the vandalism “because Mexicans take jobs from Americans.”
Police found a black sharpie marker during a search of Vargas’ bag. Police also said Vargas confessed to being responsible for the graffiti in an interview with police.
In a statement, MTA Chief of Police Owen Monaghan said Vargas’ arrest sends a message that “no one should think they can get away with trying to intimidate the public in this way.”
Other instances of vandalism that have occurred over the past month include the toppling of headstones in two Jewish cemeteries and the engraving of swastikas in the doors of an Upper West Side Unitarian church.
“I want everyone who’s concerned to know that the NYPD is highly focused, as it always is, on protecting all communities,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in response to the latter incident. “We’re trying to address it in our city with a very aggressive ability to stop hate crimes and prosecute hate crimes and bias crimes.”