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Racist graffiti covers a building in the Beaches. It was removed from several buildings, walkways and signs after being sprayed early Saturday morning or late Friday night, police suspect

Police said they were investigating racist and anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled along the boardwalk in Toronto's Beach neighbourhood as a hate crime.

The graffiti, which police said was sprayed late Friday or early Saturday, stretched from Kenilworth Avenue west to the boardwalk's end, a stretch of about one kilometre, Constable Wendy Drummond said.

Brent Bowman, owner of Goodbye Graffiti, the company hired by the city to remove the markings, said attacks of this scale are rare.

"For one area to get hit with that much racist and hate graffiti is very unusual," he said. "This is the most we've seen in a long, long time."

Mr. Bowman said he discovered more than 35 symbols scrawled in red spray paint on bricks, sidewalks, doors, support pillars, signs and the boardwalk itself.

These included numerous swastikas, the words "White Power," "SSS," "KKK," "Hands off Syria," "Hands off Iran," and other expletives, photos taken by the company show.

Mr. Bowman said most of the clean-up was completed Saturday. Police estimate the damage will cost $7,000 to repair.

In September, 2008, police investigated racist messages scrawled in red and black on walls, benches, and recycling bins along the boardwalk.

B'nai Brith Canada has received at least three hate graffiti complaints from Beach residents this summer, said Anita Bromberg, the organization's national director of legal affairs.

City-wide, reported hate crimes increased 17.7 per cent from 2007 to 2008, with 153 crimes reported in 2008, Constable Drummond said, citing police statistics. Crimes involving property damage are by far the most commonly reported bias offences, statistics show.

Local residents said they are concerned by this weekend's attack.

"A lot of the people are upset that there wasn't some way of stepping in," said Theresa Tate, owner of the East End Garden Centre.

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