Gurnee Woman Charged With Vandalizing Religious Buildings

Nearly a dozen places of worship in the north suburbs were defaced with graffiti or damaged this month

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Meghan Heinze

    A 22-year-old Gurnee woman was charged Friday with vandalizing several religious institutions throughout Lake County.

    Meghan Heinze faces 10 counts of institutional vandalism, 10 counts of criminal defacement and two counts of criminal damage to property, police said.

    The charges are all felonies, and Heinze was ordered held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

    She was taken into custody on Thursday, nearly two weeks after officials were first notified of vandalism at religious buildings during overnight hours. In all, more than a dozen places of worship were defaced with graffiti or damaged. The same words were spray painted on the buildings -- a phrase with an expletive to mock their faith with a smiley face beneath the offending words.

    The incidents did not targeting specific faiths, said Tom Agos, a crime prevention specialist with the Gurnee Police Department. Some Christian churches, a Greek Orthodox church and a mosque have been among those vandalized, he said.

    Jaseem Anwer, vice president of the Islamic North Foundation mosque in Waukegan, which was defaced, said he doesn’t feel there is any religious tension in the area and they have never felt threatened coming to pray.

    "This is the first time we have had any form of incident. It seems like a real well-organized crime that targets a lot of people," he said.

    "I’m just shocked it could happen," said Christine Palmer, who sits on the board of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Christian Church, which was also targeted.

    All of the graffiti was made using spray paint, Agos said.

    "We are saddened by this spree of hate and offer support to the religious communities that were targeted," said American Jewish Committee Chicago Director Amy Stoken. "These reprehensible acts are an affront to all of us."