NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A fire bombing of cars in Brooklyn two months ago had investigators believing it was a hate crime, but now they think it may have been arson to claim insurance money, CBS 2's John Slattery reports.
In a predominantly Jewish neighborhood on Ocean Parkway in Midwood, three cars were torched, a fourth was damaged, and messages of hate: swastikas, "KKK" and "(Expletive) the Jews" were scrawled on the cars and on nearby benches.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind said police think some of the evidence was concocted to look like a hate crime, but not very well.
"The beer bottles, the day this happened, a high-ranking police officer told me these beer bottles were a set up," he said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued the following statement the day of the torching, Nov. 11:
"New York City is home to more than 8 million of the most open and tolerant people in the world. But even here, there are occasional incidents involving actions that are hateful or vicious or both. The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is actively investigating the twisted person or people who attacked cars, benches, and a sidewalk on a block of Ocean Parkway early this morning. The Hate Crimes Task Force, like so many other teams at our Police Department, is the world's best, as today's arrest for swastikas painted in Queens during October and early November shows. In fact, hate crimes are down nearly 30 percent citywide so far this year and are down roughly 33 percent in Brooklyn's 66th Precinct.
The fact that this most recent attack came on the heels of the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht may or may not be a coincidence. Either way, this kind of hateful act has no place in the freest city in the freest country in the world."
Police sources said the firebombing was not likely a hate crime, but an insurance scam, and could have been manufactured by someone outside the community.
One tell-tale sign was that the beer bottles found at the scene had the prints wiped off.
"Someone in the Police Department said the odd thing is KKK and a swastika don't usually go hand in hand," Hikind said.
Residents in the area were not surprised by the scam theory.
"You meet people every day, they cheat on their taxes, scam insurance companies every which way," said neighbor Vince Vivona.
"It doesn't make me happy, but I really don't know what's going on," another neighbor said.
Cell phones of the car owners and cameras for blocks around will be examined for possible clues.
Regardless of what was behind it, the community wants an arrest.
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