The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. is investigating a crime involving racially offensive vandalism that occurred last weekend at the Ralph Dunlap Elementary School in Santa Maria.

The school’s janitor discovered the graffiti on the roof of a building near the cafeteria Monday morning and alerted faculty before students arrived. The administration removed the writing after photographing the defacement and providing it to investigators as evidence.

According to Orcutt Union School District Superintendent Bob Bush, a similar incident occurred a week before at the same location.

“We get graffiti like everyone else,” Bush said. “The idea is to get it off because we don’t want kids exposed. We try to get it off as quickly as we can. If it is racial or hateful we take pictures and call the sheriff.”

The sheriff’s department is searching for evidence to apprehend the suspects involved in the two defacement crimes.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Public Information Officer Drew Sugars said the charges are misdemeanor hate crime offenses.

“There are no suspects at this time,” Sugars said. “The case will be investigated and if caught, the suspects will be brought to court.”

The school staff removed similar graffiti a week prior to this event without taking photographs for detectives.

According to Sugars, detectives believe the cases may involve the same perpetrator.

“There were a lot of similarities between the two [incidences],” Sugars said. “[The suspects] would potentially be facing two different crimes.”

Mike Sierra, owner and contractor for Sierra Sandblasting, said graffiti removal would be detrimental to the district’s finances as the process costs approximately $135 per hour.

The sheriff’s department is requesting assistance from anyone who has additional knowledge about the crimes. The public can call the Santa Maria Sheriff’s Substation at (805) 934-6150 or the Sheriff’s Anonymous Tip Line at (805) 681-4171 with information related to the incident.

According to Sugars, civilian vigilance is an important component in police investigations.

“It is always helpful to have community partners with these types of crimes,” Sugars said. “We’re asking for the public’s help. We are hoping someone will be encouraged to come forward.”