By Charles Layton
At least three equality flags were stolen from homes in Ocean Grove over the weekend.
A man named John, who lives on New York Avenue, said he and his daughter went out to dinner on Saturday night, and when they got home he noticed that his flag had been ripped off. “They literally ripped it off the side of the house with such force that the metal of the flag holder was broken in half.”
He said the next day, when he called the police, a neighbor said, “Oh my gosh, mine is missing too.”
He figures the thefts occurred between 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
Irene, who lives on the western end of Heck Avenue, said she only noticed the theft of her flag, along with its pole, on Sunday, while looking at photographs. She said she had taken a photo of her granddaughter’s lemonade stand on Saturday and the flag was in the picture. Then she took a photo of a flower in front of her house on Sunday and saw that the flag was missing. “So I’m pretty sure it happened Saturday night,” she said.
Both Irene and John said that when they reported the thefts the police asked questions that led them to think the police were trying to establish whether or not the thefts could be classified as hate crimes. The blue and yellow flags are the symbol of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s largest civil rights organization for gay equality.
Irene said she was particularly disturbed because the thief had to unlatch her gate and come into the yard, “and he came right up to my front steps and took it.”
“And my dog didn’t bark, which I’m not too thrilled about either,” she added.
After hearing of these three thefts, Harriet Bernstein, co-chair of Ocean Grove United, sent out emails asking whether others may have had their flags stolen. If so, she was urging that they report the thefts to the Neptune police.
“A number of people have had flags stolen in the past,” Bernstein said, “but it hasn’t happened in a few years.”