Vandalism At Salon Carries Racist Overtones

July 27, 2009|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

Anne Arundel County police are investigating a burglary over the weekend that left a Brooklyn Park hair salon defaced with racist messages and swastikas.

Police said in a statement that they believe a single person was responsible for the break-in at Heavenly Hands Unisex Salon. They called the crime an "apparent arson attempt" - gasoline or some other combustible liquid was poured everywhere, including in the hair dryers. Whoever broke in also stole a computer and several other items.

The spray-painted messages used racial epithets - aimed at African-Americans and people of Chinese descent - and promised "more to come." Owner Sharanda Brown is African-American; some of the other store owners and managers in the Brooklyn Park Plaza on Ritchie Highway are Asian-American.

"It's such a multicultural area," said Brown, who opened the business two years ago. A crime with racist overtones "is really out of the norm."

Someone tried to break in two weeks earlier but couldn't get through the window or door, Brown said. Both were damaged.

Angelina Williams, who manages a Family Dollar store in the shopping center, said a group of white teenagers made two trips to her store Thursday to buy spray paint. She thinks those purchases are connected to the break-in at Heavenly Hands, which was vandalized with black spray paint.

Tien Phan, who owns the nearby SK Nails salon, said he had a recent break-in, too. He said he's fed up with teenage skateboarders bothering him and his customers, and he's thinking of moving.

"This area right here is no good," he said.

Brown said her godson was working at the McDonald's across the street Saturday and heard the sound of breaking glass just before 1:30 a.m. He called 911, then her. When she saw the vandalism, she said, she thought she might have a nervous breakdown. But Sunday, she was calm. Thoughts of closing were no longer in her mind.

She doesn't know how quickly she can reopen. The messages can be painted over, but choking fumes from the gasoline permeate the salon. She left the doors open Sunday, to try to air the place out.

Her husband, Robert Brown, said he's planning to improve security, and wishes the police community services center two doors away was staffed more often.

"They should have a cop there 24/7," he said.

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