Once we hear that a home or business has been marred with swastikas, the first thought that comes to mind is that it’s the work of a hate group.

Could also be someone who’s just bored and looking for an outlet to spread a little mischief.

A recent incident in West Amwell seems to lean in the direction of the former.

A 20-year-old man from across the river in Yardley is being charged with criminal mischief and theft, but not a hate crime, in having spray painted swastikas and obscenities on the side of a number of businesses along Route 179 in West Amwell, according to NJ.com.

Wetzel posted $15,000 bail and was released.

Here’s what surprises me.

The rabbi quoted in the case is much more understanding of the motivation of the youth than you’d expect. Was the perpetrator motivated out of hate, or was it just mischief?

I clearly remember a case, also in western New Jersey, where a swastika was scrawled in chalk in front of the home of a prominent rabbi – who explained that he too thought the action to be a prank.

His rationale – it was written in chalk, and had the perp meant business, he’d have done more damage.
One might could deduce from that reasoning that - in this case - the crime was more out of hate.
But that’s for the county prosecutor to decide.

Were you the prosecutor, would you charge the youth who spray painted swastikas and obscenities on the sides of West Amwell businesses with a hate crime?