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Police Offer $1,000 Reward In Search For Vandals Desecrating Yonkers Religious Statues

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Police are offering a $1,000 reward in the search for whoever has been spray-painting religious statues in Yonkers.

Vandals hit eight times, desecrating nativity scenes across the area. So far no arrests have been made, but if and when the perpetrators are caught, it will be prosecuted as a hate crime and could be a felony, police said.

Police also said if convicted, whoever committed these crimes could spend several years behind bars. The Yonkers Police commissioner said religious vandalism or bias crimes are rare in the city.

"I think it's childish and immature not really in the holiday spirit," one person said.

Victoria Beldran is one of eight people who called police due to the vandalism in front of her home this weekend on Park Avenue.

"It's not about the statue, it's about what it means for you. It hurts," Beldran said.

Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett said the crime spree started Saturday with six homes and two churches hit, including a statue covered in black paint outside of the convent at Sacred Heart Church.

"We believe an attack on one religion is an attack on all and it violates our basic freedoms," Hartnett said.

In addition to vandalism, police confirmed there has been one theft of a statue on Palisade Avenue.

Right now, police have little evidence but they have recovered one statue of Mary in a dumpster -- not broken.

Check out surveillance video of one incident:

Yonkers Police Deartment - Criminal Mischief to Religious Artifacts by Yonkers Police Department on YouTube

The statue, believed to be the one that belongs on Palisade Avenue, is now part of the investigation. It's a white, delicate porcelain figure that somehow survived the dumpster tumble.

"I don't want to read too much into that, but it is the holiday season and miracles do happen," Detective. Capt. Robert Itzla said.

"I hope police do something to catch those crazy ones," one resident said.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact the Yonkers Police Detective Division at 914-377-7724.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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