Roughly 40 swastikas were scrawled on white-plastic sheeting used to cover hay bales in a field off I-5 in Marysville.
Snohomish County sheriff's detectives are investigating.
While no motive has been determined, the Anti-Defamation League, a group that tracks hate crimes, said the incident may be one more indication that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Western Washington.
"Hate is alive and well," said Ellen Bovarnick, the group's regional director. "Somebody or somebodies took the time to express what is the most virulent symbol of anti-Semitism that anyone can think of."
The swastikas were reported to the sheriff's office on Sunday by a passerby, spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.
"It's ugly and no one likes to see this in our community," Hover said.
The landowners on Monday said they would have the swastikas removed. By late Monday afternoon, someone had rolled the hay bales so the vandalism was no longer visible.
Anti-Semitic graffiti has appeared throughout the greater Puget Sound region in recent months, Bovarnick said. A synagogue on Vashon Island was targeted. In July, neighbors in and around Longview reported more than 24 incidents of graffiti, including swastikas, she said.
This is the first time in recent memory that a cluster of swastikas has appeared in Snohomish County.
Statewide, there are more than 40 reported active hate groups, the Anti-Defamation League reported. The concern is that the north Marysville graffiti could be linked.
"It is possible that it's the work of one of those groups," Bovarnick said. "The police should do everything in their power to recognize that this is a hate crime and should do everything to apprehend the perpetrators."
The case has been assigned to the Criminal Analysis and Intelligence Unit, Hover said. That's the same team of detectives who track gang activity.
The field where the swastikas were found is off 34th Avenue NE just south of 136th Street NE. The swastikas were visible from the southbound lanes of the freeway.
Property owners first learned of the graffiti from a reporter on Monday.
Woody MacLeod, a spokesman for MacAngus Ranches Inc., which owns the land, said he planned to contact the farmer who has contracted to take care of the field and ask to have the vandalism removed immediately.
"He should get that out of there so it's out of the way," MacLeod said.
Dozens, possibly hundreds, of covered hay bales dot the nearly 60-acre property. As many as 40 of the bales had swastikas.
"This is a disturbing event for the Jewish community as it is when any religious or ethnic group is targeted," said Janis Warner, president of Temple Beth Or in Everett.
Tulalip resident Allison Wonderland reported the vandalism to police Sunday.
"I'm shocked, appalled, mortified and embarrassed," she said. "We couldn't believe it. It's beyond disgusting."
Racist and anti-Semitic behavior in Snohomish County has made headlines over the years.
In 2004, two white 16-year-old cousins pleaded guilty to burning a cross on a black pastor's lawn in Arlington. Also that year, minority students at schools in Arlington and Monroe reported that other students had waved nooses to intimidate them.
Last September, backward swastikas and the words "I eat Jews" were painted on two cars belonging to a Mill Creek Jewish family.
That same month in Arlington, a construction site where a black foreman worked was targeted with racial graffiti.
In April, someone tagged at least 15 Arlington locations with graffiti, including swastikas and penises. Police believed the drawings were the work of juveniles, not hate crimes.
Last week, reports of hateful graffiti circulated when neighbors reported racist words and letters scrawled on a fence in a north Marysville neighborhood.
No arrests have been made.
"We have trust in the authorities to investigate this vandalism to its full extent, ensuring the safety of individuals and property," Warner said.
Making arrests in vandalism cases can be difficult, Hover said.
"Unless we get some information about a possible suspect, there isn't much more we can do at this point," she said.
Bovarnick said everyone needs to stand against intolerance.
"The community needs to come together and say 'No' to any form of hatred, racism, bigotry or anti-Semitism," she said.
Herald reporter Bill Sheets contributed to this story.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone with information about the swastikas in north Marysville is asked to call the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office tip line at 425-388-3845.
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