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New Jersey teen accused of directing white supremacists to vandalize Racine synagogue

RACINE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A teenager in New Jersey is accused of inspiring white supremacists to vandalize a Racine synagogue.

In September, Beth Israel Sinai was spray-painted with swastikas and other anti-Semitic images.

Richard Tobin has been arrested in connection to the crime.

Police say he was part of a violent, white extremist group that's declared war against minorities.

He directed someone to vandalize Beth Israel with hate symbols, and another person to do the same to a synagogue in Michigan, according to Tobin's criminal complaint.

The FBI says the vandalism was a conspiracy to "injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate" Jewish people.

"A swastika is an emblem of pure evil," said Ann Jacobs with the Milwaukee Jewish Community Relations Council. "When it is sprayed on places of Jewish gathering, it changes from merely a symbol into an overt threat."

The FBI reported 7,175 hate crimes in the U.S. in 2017.

That was a 17-percent jump from the year before.

In 2018, that number held about steady, with 7,120 reported hate crimes.

Jacobs says incidents like the September vandalism shouldn't be shrugged off, and neither should seemingly innocent jokes or comments.

"If you're at work and people are using racist language or anti-Semitic language or anti-Muslim language, call them out," she said. "Don't allow it to become our normal because this isn't what should be our normal."

The people who spray painted the synagogues are not named in Tobin's criminal complaint.

Racine police told the city's local newspaper that no one in the area has been arrested.

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