NEWARK, N.J. — Northern New Jersey police are investigating a complaint that someone is using an offensive wireless network name described as anti-Semitic and racist.
Teaneck Police Chief Robert Wilson said police responded Tuesday to a caller at the Richard Rodda Community Center who reported finding the offensive phrase in searching for a wireless network.
Police did not disclose the phrase. But New York's Daily News reported the phrase was anti-Semitic and racist in nature.
Wilson said the use of the phrase was being investigated as a possible bias crime and the Bergen County prosecutor's office was assisting in the probe.
Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety and a lawyer who specilizes in Internet privacy and security, said Thursday that an offensive Wi-Fi handle alone is not enough to qualify as a bias crime.
"It's horrible and hateful, but it's not enough to put someone behind bars," said Aftab, who was not working on the Bergen County investigation but has seen similar cases.
"Bias crimes are very tricky, and have to do not just with saying hateful things, but doing hateful things," Aftab said. "By itself, those kind of hateful words don't violate the law under normal circumstances because they're protected under the First Amendment — as long as you don't cross the line into doing hateful things."
Police said they don't know of any connection between the complaint and a recent spate of vandalism at Bergen County synagogues, including a Jan. 11 firebombing in Rutherford.
Federal, county and local officials are investigating the bombing in which several Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Congregation Beth El synagogue. One device went through a window of the upstairs living quarters at the synagogue, and the rabbi suffered minor burns trying to extinguish the flames.
Police say a Dec. 10 fire at a synagogue in Paramus was intentionally set, someone scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti at synagogues in Hackensack and Maywood, and a swastika was recently discovered in a public park in Fair Lawn. Police haven't said if any of the incidents are related.