WAUKEGAN, Ill. (WLS) -- Police in Waukegan are searching for those responsible for spray painting swastikas on headstones at a Jewish cemetery.
Police were called to the Congregation Am Echod Jewish Cemetery Monday morning and found 16 large headstones with bright red swastikas on them. ABC7 has blurred out those images.
Twenty-three other headstones had other graffiti on them, police said.
The Anti-Defamation League said the crime is part of a disturbing trend.
"In the immediate aftermath of the continued escalation of antisemitic incidents, this one hits hard," said David Goldenberg, ADL Midwest regional director.
Police said an additional 23 headstones had been defaced by other graffiti.
"What it really represents is this normalization of antisemitism, and that is what we find to be incredibly concerning," Goldenberg said.
The ADL reported a 430% increase in antisemitic incidents in Illinois from 2016 to 2021.
"We have to remember that this is a fringe element of our society," said Goldenberg. "And we far outnumber them. So we got to be smarter than them. We have to be just as aggressive as them and we got to be louder than that. And that's how you fight back."
In a statement, Waukegan Mayor Ann B. Taylor said: "I am deeply disturbed and angered by the hateful imagery found spray-painted on headstones this morning in Am Echod Jewish Cemetery. Hate does not have a home in Waukegan; when such incidents occur, our marginalized neighbors are victimized, and our entire community suffers. I hope our officers promptly locate the perpetrators of this despicable act and hold them accountable, and I offer my full support to those directly impacted by this vandalism."
Gov. JB Pritzker condemned this as an "evil act."
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Waukegan Police Department tip line at 847-360-9001.