SPARTA, Ill. (KSDK) - Graphic and racist graffiti are the talk of a small Illinois town.
Vandals covered a Sparta playground with the drawings and racial slurs sometime last week, and some residents are worried this could be more than just vandalism.
Rosette Clay is a self-proclaimed community activist. She lived through the civil rights movement and she's worried about the message this graffiti sends to the Sparta communit.
Clay says the graffiti covered the playground at the Randolph County Fairgrounds for a week. Much of it is too graphic to show, but it included racial slurs. The vandal even took the time to write the slur repeatedly inside the slide.
"That makes you think, is this the norm? Have our kids become desensitized when things like this happen?" said Clay.
She says there's a bigger issue beyond defacing public property.
"Safety. If somebody is out here writing this they might have a problem with us and the kids," she said.
Police Chief Tom Ashley says an officer spotted the graffiti on Saturday while on patrol through the park.
By Sunday afternoon city employees were working to remove it.
"They wanted to take care of it as quickly as possible. You know, it's not good for anybody to leave something like that around for more people to see. And the sooner we can take care of it the better off we are as a community," said Chief Ashley.
He says there have been other incidents of graffiti in the city, but it's never been racially-charged like this.
"I believe it's not in response to anything that's happened. I think it was probably some kids that had some free time and decided to put it on the slide," said Chief Ashley.
"Bottom line, that's a hate crime. So it needs to be dealt with. Not just covering it up, I know they're getting removing it. But we've got to get it out of our community," said Clay.
Clay says she's grateful city leaders responded as quickly as they did.
Chief Ashley says the investigation into the vandalism is on-going.
There are plans to improve the park and cameras could be added to help stop similar crimes in the future.